Fury at firms being sold voter details

Wigan resident John Wilmington is angry after receiving a letter about voting
Wigan resident John Wilmington is angry after receiving a letter about voting
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A WIGANER has taken the authorities to task over a letter sent out to voters which he claims is confusing and potentially misleading.

John Wilmington, from Swinley, was angered after reading the letter issued by Wigan Council concerning switching voters on to the new electoral register.

The letter informed him he has been automatically placed on to the new register and so does not need to do anything, but then goes on to say he has also been put on the open register which allows companies to buy personal information.

Mr Wilmington, of Walkden Avenue East, says he would not have agreed to this given the choice and has spoken to other people who had not fully read the letter or grasped its meaning.

Mr Wilmington, 67, said: “I’m concerned that pensioners and those who are very busy will only read the first bit and not see the reference to the open register.

“They didn’t ask me if they could do that, and people may not realise they are on the open register when they might not want to be.

“I’ve spoken to several people and they are incensed, they all want to opt out. I’m also concerned it could make me vulnerable.

“I just think it’s very sneaky because the first half of the letter is written in such a positive way and says you don’t need to do anything.”

However, Wigan Council has said the wording of the letter was drawn up by the Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission, with town halls across Britain using the same letter.

The local authority also said the open register system has been in place since 2002 and the voter registration forms do provide boxes which residents can tick to opt out of the system.

The Electoral Commission said it does not believe allowing commercial organisations to access the open register puts people off voting.

However, it expressed concern that if it was scrapped there would be calls for wider access to the full electoral register, which is currently restricted to certain organisations and can only be viewed for law enforcement, credit checking and issues arising around elections and has no opt-out, and the resulting free-for-all could put people off registering to vote.