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Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Act 2015

Registration of electors

7.Section 2 makes amendments to the existing annual household canvass process as set out in the 1983 Act and 2001 Regulations. Section 2(1) removes the requirement for an electoral registration officer to make house to house enquiries in respect of a 14 or 15 year old where a canvass form has not been returned, and section 2(2)(a) provides that the canvass form must require the date of birth of any person named on the form who is aged 14 or 15. Requiring the dates of birth of 14 and 15 year olds to be entered on the canvass form will allow the electoral registration officer to ensure that engagement with persons aged under 16 is treated in an appropriate manner. Section 2(2)(b) provides that, where an electoral registration officer is pre-printing information about persons on the local government register on a canvass form, the date of birth of anyone aged under 16 must not be included.

8.Section 3 deals with invitations to register. Invitations to register are issued by electoral registration officers to any potential electors not currently registered who are identified on the household canvass form described above.

9.Section 3(1) provides that an electoral registration officer’s ability under section 9E(7) of the 1983 Act to impose a civil penalty on someone who fails to respond to a requirement to register does not apply to anyone aged 14 or 15.

10.Regulation 32ZC(2) of the 2001 Regulations lists the things which an invitation to register must include. These are: the full name and address of the person to be invited; an explanation of how to make an application for registration; and a statement as to the circumstances in which a civil penalty may be imposed and the amount of that penalty (as discussed at paragraph 9 above, civil penalties will not be imposed on 14 and 15 year old applicants). Section 3(2) of the Act adds to this list that invitations to register issued to anyone under the age of 16 must include an explanation of how that person’s information will be held and used (protection of information is contained in sections 13 to 15, discussed at paragraphs 27 to 36 below).

11.Section 3(3) removes the requirement for an electoral registration officer to make a house visit to anyone who fails to respond to three invitations to register, where that person was under the age of 16 when given the invitation.

12.Section 3(4) amends regulation 32ZE of the 2001 Regulations to remove a requirement which is placed on registration officers before they can require a person under the age of 16 to register. This is the requirement to inform a person that a civil penalty may be imposed if they fail to respond to a requirement to register. The section also removes the need for the notice requiring a person to register to include information relating to the civil penalty.

13.Section 4 provides that Scottish Ministers may make Regulations about invitations to register which are to be issued to those under the age of 16, including provision about the design and content of the invitation to register, how the invitations are to be given, and how they are combined with or accompanied by other registration forms or documents. Section 4(2) explains that Regulations made under this section may confer functions on the Electoral Commission, for example by requiring the Commission to design an invitation to register. The Scottish Ministers must consult the Electoral Commission before making any Regulations under this section, and those Regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure in the Scottish Parliament.

14.Section 5 makes amendments to the provisions in the 2001 Regulations which deal with applications for registration. Section 5(2) provides that where an applicant is unable to provide their date of birth, an application form must include a statement of whether the applicant is under the age of 16, 16 or 17, or 18 or over. It must also include information on how data on applicants under 16 will be handled. Section 5(2) also provides that where an applicant is authorised by a registration officer to provide information by telephone or in person, the registration officer is not obliged to provide an explanation of the edited register. This is because by virtue of section 12 no details of 14 and 15 year olds will be included in the edited register, which is an extract of the register that can be bought by any person or organisation. It also removes the requirement for an application from anyone under the age of 16 to include the person’s national insurance number.

15.Section 5(3) deals with the registration officer’s power to request additional evidence in support of an application for registration. It provides that a registration officer may not seek additional evidence in support of an application from a 14 or 15 year old where the registration officer is satisfied on the basis of educational records that the applicant is who they say they are and is eligible to register. Regulation 35 of the 2001 Regulations authorises a registration officer to inspect records kept by the council which appointed that officer and regulation 35A of those Regulations allows the council to disclose information from its records to that officer. These records would include those held by the council for educational purposes.

16.Section 5(4) removes the requirement for an application to register and any objection to such an application to be made available for inspection, where that application has been made by someone under the age of 16. The application details of those under the age of 16 will not be published.

17.Section 5(5) removes the need for registration officers to apply the standard verification procedures (sending the applicant’s information to be checked against records held by the Department of Work and Pensions or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) to applications made by anyone aged under 16.

18.Section 6 removes the requirement for a registration officer to publish for inspection details of a review, where the subject of that review is under the age of 16. This is a review of whether a person who has been registered was entitled to be registered, or has ceased to be registered at the address at which they are registered, or has otherwise ceased to satisfy the conditions to be registered.

19.Section 7 deals with applications for anonymous registration by those under the age of 16. It extends the list of people who may attest such applications, to include any person authorised by a chief social work officer in Scotland. To register anonymously, a person has to satisfy a registration officer that their safety, or the safety of a member of their household, would be at risk if their name or address appeared on the register. Various court orders and interdicts can be used to support the application, or the applicant can produce an attestation signed by a chief social work officer amongst others. Section 7 allows that officer to delegate the function to other persons. For example, that officer might choose to delegate the function to social workers who work closely with young people.

20.Section 8 amends provisions on declarations of local connection set out in section 7B of the 1983 Act. The effect of a declaration of local connection is that the declarant can be registered by reference to an address which may not be the one at which they normally reside. Specifically, section 8 provides an additional ground for 14 and 15 year old applicants to the local government register in Scotland. Those applicants may apply to register using a declaration of local connection if they are, or have been, looked after by a Scottish local authority, or if they are being kept in secure accommodation. Looked after children and secure accommodation are both defined under section 8(2) by reference to relevant legislation. Section 8(3) provides that the address given in such application declaration must be an address in Scotland at which the child has previously been resident. Section 8(4) clarifies that declarations made under this provision will not have effect at UK parliamentary elections, even when a person who has made such a declaration reaches the age at which they can register as a UK parliamentary elector.

21.Section 9 amends the 1983 Act to allow eligible children of those with a service qualification to register to vote in Scottish elections via a service declaration of their own. The effect of a service declaration is to allow a declarant to register to vote by reference to an address in Scotland while they are posted abroad on service, generally military service. The rules around eligibility for a service qualification are contained in section 14 of the 1983 Act. Section 9(2) amends those rules so that, for the purposes of registration as a Scottish local government elector, they also apply to anyone who is under the age of 18; has a parent or guardian who has a service qualification; and who resides at a particular place to be with that parent or guardian.

22.Section 9(3) provides for the expiry of service declarations made by eligible children when the person who has made the declaration reaches the age of 18. As with declarations of local connection, service declarations made under the provisions of this Act will not have effect for the purposes of UK parliamentary elections, even when a person who has made such a declaration reaches the age at which they can register as a UK parliamentary elector. Section 9(4) provides that a service declaration made under this section does not need to be attested. Section 9(5) makes a consequential change to a presumption that attaches to a service declaration that has been properly made and submitted. The presumption is that it was made by a person who has a service qualification. Section 9(5) provides that the presumption ceases when the person attains the age of 18.

23.Section 10 deals with the contents of a service declaration under regulation 15 of the 2001 Regulations. Section 10(2) allows service declarations to be made by those who have a service qualification under the provision made by section 9(2). Section 10(3) lists additional information that such a service declaration must include. These include details of the applicant’s parent or guardian who has a service qualification. For example, a declaration made on the basis of a parent or guardian who is a member of the armed forces must include the service, rank or rating, service number, and regiment or corps of that parent or guardian.

24.Section 11 makes further provision about service declarations. Section 11(2) requires a registration officer to send a reminder to a person who has a service declaration under the provisions of this Act that their registration will cease on their 18th birthday. That reminder must be issued as soon as practicable in the three month period before the person turns 18.

25.Section 11(3) amends the rules contained in regulation 26B of the 2001 Regulations on the power of registration officers to request additional information in support of applications for registration. It provides that, in respect of service declarations made under the provision made by section 9(2), a registration officer may request a copy of the applicant’s passport or identity card, certified by a relevant official (a relevant official is defined as a Crown Servant, an officer of the forces, or a British Council employee who is not the applicant’s parent, guardian, spouse or civil partner).

26.Section 12 inserts a new subsection into section 9 of the 1983 Act to provide that, where the register of parliamentary electors and the register of local government electors are combined, the combined register must show the date of attainment of age 18 of anyone who is aged 16 or 17 and is registered only as a local government elector. This means that the combined register will show dates of attainment for all electors who are not aged 18 or over, which assists some users (for example where the court service uses a combined register to select potential jurors).

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Text created by the Scottish Government to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills.


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