Throughout this summer, ALDC will repeat a simple message; go out, knock on doors and talk to residents. At this point in the year, we would encourage you to talk to a wide range of people in your area. Other than opposition candidates and their activists, we shouldn’t be excluding people at this point. However, that will come into play later in our campaigning and there is work that we can do now to help us when we are at that point. A really important part of this comes from Marked Register data.
The marked register is a copy of the electoral roll that was used on polling day that shows who voted. It is available in two formats:
- the marked register of those who voted at a polling station is essentially the copy of the register used on the day with the names of those who voted on the day crossed out.
- the absent voters marked register is a list of those who voted by post. This is available either as a paper list of those who returned their ballot papers or as an electronic list that can be imported directly in to Connect.
Copies of the marked register are available for one year after all elections.
Why do we use the Marked Register?
Liberal Democrat campaigners use the marked register to inform our campaigning. Knowing whether a person normally votes in local elections or sometimes votes in local elections, is a powerful piece of information when we are targeting our communications, our door knocking and our campaigning. Similarly knowing which people never vote in elections (there are lots of them), and which people only vote when there is a general election, are important things to know about voters.
To do this we need to put the marked registers into Connect. We strongly recommend that you do the marked register for as much of your local authority as you can afford, preferably all of it, for every election. Data in non-target wards or seats may well be useful in the future – if an area becomes a target, or if there is a by-election.
Getting the Marked Register
There are two different ways of accessing the marked register:
- Any member of the public is entitled to inspect the marked register. They can do this by making a written request to the electoral services department of the relevant council explaining why they need to see the register and what the information will be used for. They must then allow people to access the information within ten days (Regulation 118(3), RPR 2001.). In practice, anyone who is known to be a representative of one of the local political parties will automatically be granted access. The downside with inspecting the register in this way is that you can only make hand-written notes which will make the process of noting down who voted very long. Some councils do allow political parties to take in laptops so they can enter the data in to Connect directly, however they are not obliged to do so. Another option is to take your own printed copy of the register and transfer the information to your own copy. The current Covid-19 restrictions also make this a less than ideal solution and one that councils may not be happy with.
- If you are a representative of a political party (i.e. an elected representative or a known party ‘official’), you can also request your own copy of the marked register on paper (polling station or postal voters) or as data (postal voters only). This then allows you to enter the data at your own pace and directly in to Connect.
The downside is that you have to pay for a copy of the information – an administration charge of £10 plus either £1 per 1,000 entries for a data copy or £2 per 1,000 entries for a paper copy.
For example, for a polling station marked register containing 8,000 entries in printed format, and the marked list of postal voters containing 2,000 entries in data format, the fee will be: £14 for the data copy and £26 for the paper copy.
Although the definitions of data and printed copies are not specified in the legislation, it is reasonable to interpret a ‘printed copy’ as being a physical hard copy of a document. A PDF or similar electronic version of a document, even if that document could then be printed to create a printed copy, is a data version and should be charged accordingly.
The Electoral Registration Officer is only obliged to supply documents in the format in which they hold them: they are not required to process the document in order to change that format, although they may do so. It is particularly useful to get hold of the absent voter (postal voter) marked register in a ‘data format’, so that this can be automatically uploaded into Connect after some work to get the files in the correct format.
Entering the data on Connect
There are two ways the marked register can be entered into Connect.
- Manually – This is by downloading an export from Connect, and manually transferring the data from the sheets you have bought from the Council into the excel document.
We then upload the data into Connect. This is quite a long process, but it is often something that volunteers can help with. For guidance on how to enter the marked register data into Connect read this QuickSheet 5.6 from LDHQ.
- Using Registr. Liberal Democrat volunteers have created a system where you can upload the PDFs you have bought from the Council. ALDC are working with Lib Dem Software to help facilitate this process and all expressions of interest should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How we use this data.
There are four main ways of then using the data.
- Do your post-election analysis of what actually happened. Understanding turnout in a specific area can be a very useful tool. There may be areas where we assume that turnout is low but actually isn’t. Once you have collected this data over a number of years, you can spot both patterns and also any anomalies – where turnout in an area is higher in one particular year than we would expect.
- Create a list of supporters in Connect who did NOT vote in the last election. This gives you a good idea of who to prioritise for direct mail, phone calls and/or doorstep contact to get signed up to postal votes. Switching someone over to voting by post means they are more likely to actually vote for us in future.
- If you get the marked registers over several elections you can identify the people who always vote. Where we are in a position of needing to win over support from the other parties (e.g. because we have started working a ward we haven’t previously) these are the prime prospects for winning converts – not only because if we get them to support us they are actually likely to vote, but also because we are taking a vote from our opponents. Regular voters can be switched – so you can win converts amongst this group of people.
- If you don’t have a lot of Voter ID in an area, then you can use the marked register to help make some assumptions about voting patterns. For example, if you know that you get 70% of the vote in one polling district, but you have only canvassed 20% of the voters there, then it is reasonable to assume that those who vote are far more likely to be Liberal Democrats than anything else. This will only help you so much however and is no substitute for actual canvassing!