Annual Canvass 2020 and Canvass Reform

Local authorities are legally required to contact all the residential properties in their area every year, to check if they have the correct information on the electoral register. This process is called the ‘annual canvass’.

Why we have sent you a letter or an email

Over the summer we sent emails and/or letters to all residential properties in the district, asking if the information we have about the household is correct, or if it needs to be updated. We will use this information to publish the revised register of electors on 1 February 2021.

If we send you a letter, please read it carefully. Not all of our letters require a response.

Invitations to register to vote

If we've sent you an email or paper form inviting you to register to vote, this is because you (or someone else at your property) has responded to a canvass email or letter and added your name to the household.

The canvass response doesn't automatically add you to the register, we need more information (your National Insurance number, for example) to do this. The response just lets us know that you live at the property and that we must invite you to register to vote. The registration email or letter looks different to our canvass communications. It also will be addressed to you personally, whereas our canvass letters are addressed to 'The Occupier'.

If we've invited you to register, you must respond (that is, if you're eligible to register to vote).

The quickest way to respond is to register to vote online. You can also register by returning a paper form by post or register over the telephone. Your email or form will provide instructions on how to do this.

The annual canvass and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The annual canvass is still going ahead this year. We will keep our service going, but our staff will be working a different way because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Canvass reform

New legislation has been passed to change the annual canvass.

The new law has given us more choice about:

  • the information we can use about the property before the canvass
  • the type of emails, letters and forms we can send
  • the order in which we can send our emails, letters and forms
  • whether or not we need someone to respond to their email, letter or form

Detailed policy statement from the Cabinet Office about how and why the canvass has changed

We now have to carry out a ‘data matching step’ at the beginning of the canvass. This is where we compare the details on the electoral register against information held by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and information held by the council (eg council tax).

The electoral services privacy policy has a section that explains why we share your information with the DWP.

Who to include in your response

Missing names

If there are people missing from the form this means that they are not registered to vote at the address. Please add the names of anyone who lives at the property and is eligible to register to vote.

Students who have, or are about to move to university

Students who are eligible to register to vote should be included in your response, because students can register at both their home and term time addresses.

Sixteen to seventeen year olds

Although they are not eligible to vote, being registered will ensure they can vote as soon as they can reach 18. Please include them in your response, we will write to them separately and invite them to register if they haven’t already done so.

Who to exclude or remove from your response


Please don’t include anyone aged under 16 in your response.

People who have moved into long term care, for example a nursing home

The nursing home is now their main residence and they should be registered to vote there instead. We will contact nursing and care homes later in the canvass, so you may wish to speak to the responsible person there to check if your friend or relative has been included in their response.

If someone listed on your form or letter has died

We're usually informed when an elector has passed away by a 'tell us once' form, however we may not have received this information or not received it in time to update the register we have used for the canvass. Please respond and remove their name.

People using the property as a a second home

If there are names listed but the address is now used as a second home, please respond to your letter by removing their names and indicate it is a second home.

If your letter shows that the property is empty, and it doesn’t ask for a response, you don’t need to do anything. If your letter asks for a response (even though the information is correct), please do so.

If the property is empty

If there are names listed but the address is now empty, someone (eg a landlord or caretaker) must respond and remove the names.

If your letter shows that the property is empty, and it doesn’t ask for a response, you don’t need to do anything. If your letter asks for a response (even though the information is correct), please do so.

There’s no-one eligible to register to vote

If there’s no-one eligible to register to vote (for example, because of their nationality) your letter will show the property as being empty for the purposes of the electoral register. Please respond to the letter to confirm that there is no-one eligible to register at the address. 

Why we've contacted you by email

Where possible, we send letters by email. It can be more convenient for electors to receive emails, and it saves paper and council resources.

How to opt out of emails

You have the right to object to us using your email address for electoral purposes. If you no longer wish to be contacted by email, please either:

  • follow the ‘opt out’ link in your email
  • email us:
  • call us on the number listed below
  • write to us, our address is at the bottom of the page 

This does not affect your voting rights.

We can only remove your email address from our records. If anyone else in your household also wishes to opt out of email communication, they need to contact us separately to request this.