Scottish Borders Council has issued an apology after admitting that nearly half the electoral registration forms sent out to the region’s 53,000 households this week contain a key printing error.
And the council has given an assurance to more than 40,000 registered voters who do not want their personal details sold on to third parties that their data will be protected – despite the document indicating otherwise.
The form, from SBC’s Electoral Registration Office, comes with a warning that failure to provide the information requested could result in a £1,000 fine.
The document includes a housing enquiry form (HEF) which details everyone who is already registered to vote at that address and invites householders to add “anyone new” aged 14 and above.
Eliciting this information is a statutory responsibility of the council.
There are currently 90,280 electors on the electoral register, of whom 40,844 have already opted to be excluded from the so-called “open register” – an extract of the main register which can be bought for £118 “by any person, company or organisation”.
One Borders resident who has consistently opted not be on the open register is retired civil servant Janet Gray from
Foulden in Berwickshire, who was shocked on Monday to discover that under the heading “included on open register?” a Y for Yes symbol had been inserted for both her and her husband.
“By opting out of the open register we had hoped to minimise the annoyance of nuisance phone calls and unsolicited junk mail so it was quite a jolt to discover from the form that we had actually opted in,” said Mrs Gray.
She immediately emailed the council to complain and received a quick response, with an apology and confirmation that she and her husband were not included on the open register.
On Tuesday, a council spokesperson told The Berwickshire: “The HEF issued to each household contains a marker which indicated whether each elector at the address is included in the open register or not.
“Regrettably, due to a print error, all electors who have previously opted out of the open register have received a form with a ‘Y’ marker indicating they are included in the open register.
“This is absolutely not the case. All affected electors will continue to be opted out and need take no further action.
“They can be assured that their personal details are not included in the open register and have not been passed to any third party.
“We apologise for the confusion and inconvenience caused.
“Any elector who wishes to opt out of the open register, but has not yet done so can do so by marking the HEF clearly to that effect and returning it in the envelope provided or by using the online form at www.scotborders.gov.uk/openregister.”