The case for blending print and mail with digital solutions for the annual canvass
With the dust settling on this year’s local elections, the focus for Electoral Registration Officers will soon shift to the annual canvass if it hasn’t already done so. The canvass is a challenge for all Electoral Services teams across the country but the more diverse or transient the community, the greater the challenge.
Building an accurate and complete electoral register requires ever more integrated systems, combining print and mailing with digital solutions. In the UK, we can’t yet vote in local or national elections online, but there is an increasingly sophisticated digital ‘engine’ behind the electoral process, which ensures that data is captured and managed effectively. The process starts with issuing the Household Enquiry Form (HEF). Then there are decisions to be made, to establish how to maximise returns. That’s where it gets interesting because the best approach depends, to an extent, on the demographic, but it is important to give people choice in the way they respond.
Blending print and mail with digital, to engage your electorate
Although the majority of the UK population is web-literate, we have an ageing population with many voters still preferring paper methods of communication or registration. This calls for a blended approach, using technology and digital solutions to deliver plenty of flexibility, which brings us back to choice.
At ERS we’ve been involved in local authority electoral printing for almost two decades. We support electoral registration in all of its guises, and this year we expect to despatch over 10 million Household Enquiry Forms (HEFs). Processing the forms creates a lot of work for busy electoral services teams so, we are introducing a HEF scanning service XpressScanERS (coming soon), which opens, sorts and scans the returns straight into your work queues. We also introduced the Automated Household Response (AHR) service, to offer people the option to reply by telephone, text or online. 6.2 million people used the service last year and we expect that number to grow this year. Both these solutions give electors choice while helping local authorities make efficiency savings.
Looking at the digital perspective, a growing number of local authorities are equipping canvassers with the Mobile Canvasser App (from our sister company, Xpress), which is proven to improve return rates for the ITR (Invitation to Register) and the HEF. It works seamlessly with Xpress Register and saves time and money by enabling canvassers to capture and sync data seamlessly.
As I said in my introduction, the best approach to engaging your electorate in the annual canvass depends on your demographic. Research insights can be helpful. According to this Annual Household Registration Survey, conducted by MES and ERS, 16% of voters would be less likely to vote online than at a polling station. This suggests that it will be sometime before voters embrace online voting. In the meantime, across the ERS Group, we recognise that local authorities need systems and processes that cost-effectively blend print and mailing with digital solutions, helping them to make best use of resources while building the electoral register.
If you’d like to know more about how we are making democracy happen, please call us on 0208 829 8423 or get in touch via our contact form.