It is nothing new for a government to be talking about improving electoral registration by matching data between different sources. What is different about Nick Clegg’s latest comments on the subject, in a speech to the Hansard Society, is that the talk is now becoming much more specific, with pilot projects starting next year.
Local councils, for example, hold name and address information about people in several different databases. If they are able to make use of the data from other sources to highlight either gaps in the register, or suspicious entries that may be the result of fraud, this could improve the quality of electoral registers.
Perhaps more importantly, there is not yet much sign of a fundamental shift in the emphasis on sharing data – from asking, “What data can the public sector share with itself?” to asking, “How can we make it easy for a person to let us know what data they would like to be shared?”. In other countries, for example, someone filling out their name and address on one official form can also opt in to have the information shared with the electoral registration authorities. That brings benefits of joined-up data whilst keeping control in the hands of the people whose data is being shared.