A law allowing junk mail companies to buy voters’ details should be scrapped as the practice could affect willingness to vote, councils claim.
While the open version of the electoral register - which contains the names and addresses of 28m people - can be legally purchased from councils, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned this could be creating a surge in junk mail.
Councils are legally obliged to sell details to anyone who asks for them, with information being purchased for as little as 50p per person. With hundreds of requests each year, local authorities are concerned this is causing mistrust and even preventing people from signing up to vote due to concerns over privacy.
The LGA claims recent changes to voting practices have increased public confusion and has urged Government to scrap the open register altogether to stop any further demeaning of democracy.
Cllr Peter Fleming, chair of the LGA's improvement board, said: ‘Councils resent having to pass the electoral roll onto direct marketing companies. Junk mailers and cold callers are a pet hate for many of us. It demeans our democracy for voters' details to be sold off as a tool to help direct marketing firms make money.
‘In some cases people have not signed up to vote because they are concerned about their privacy being compromised. Councils always make people aware of their right to opt-out. But the existence of this second version of the electoral roll breeds confusion and mistrust.
‘Scrapping the open register would spare millions from being bombarded with junk mail and would remove a hurdle which stands in the way of our efforts to sign people up to vote.’