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Councils selling voters' details
HAMPSHIRE town halls are cashing in selling lists of voter names and addresses to private companies.
Details have been sold dozens of times over the past five years to estate agents, marketing firms and insurance companies, fuelling the rise in junk mail.
Southampton City Council sold the details of thousands of voters to 13 individuals and organisations over the past five years, making £1,423.
Other councils selling lists of voter names and addresses over the past five years include Winchester City Council (£1,117), New Forest District council (£1,026), Fareham Borough Council (£490) and Test Valley District Council (£402), according to research using Freedom of Information laws.
The electoral register is available for anyone to view in person, but by selling the information companies are able to send unsolicited letters.
People who sign up to vote have their names automatically included on an “edited” version of the register unless they specifically opt out.
Their details can then be sold to private companies to send personalised junk mail.
Privacy campaigners from Big Brother Watch are calling for the edited elector register to be abolished.
Councils currently have no say in selling the register and are legally obliged to make the edited version available if requested.
Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said while it was important that the electoral register was a public document which anyone could freely inspect, this should not mean personal information can be sold to private firms.
He said: “Registering to vote is a basic part of our democracy. It should not be a back door for our names and addresses to be sold to anyone and everyone.”
His call has been backed by the Electoral Commission, which also raised concerns about potential voters being put off by the possibility of their details being sold. Most authorities charge between £45 and £100 for the data.
Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts said: “We don’t do it for the money because it’s a tiny fraction of the sums that flow through the council coffers.
“The register is a public document and we are required to make that available to private companies, but people can opt out of having their details passed on by ticking a box on the forms each year.”
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