Saturday, May 11, 2019

An Election Freepost FAQ

Updated 15/12/19: I've added another question that came up in the general election.
Updated 21/11/19: Information about elections to the European Parliament is no longer relevant. To keep it for historic purposes I've italicised the relevant text.

Over the past week or so a number of people have been posting on social media about leaflets from various political parties they've received, often with their name and address on them.

Officially called "Election Communications", these are election freepost leaflets. In some elections all candidates/parties are entitled to have one item delivered to all voters/households by Royal Mail. For many voters it may be the only thing they receive from a particular party/candidate.

Not everyone knows the ins and outs of them, so here's a quick set of Frequently Asked Questions and answers.

What elections have the freepost option?

Elections to the Westminster and European Parliaments.

For directly elected mayors the electoral authorities will directly send out a booklet containing multiple one or two page manifestos from all candidates who submitted them and paid the fee.

Local council elections and, if I recall correctly, police & crime commissioner elections don't have them. I forget what the provision is for the devolved parliaments.

Why have we only received leaflets from some parties?

The freepost is an option available to all parties and independent candidates, but not everyone makes use of it whilst some campaigners opt to only send out a limited amount to targeted voters and/or areas. For example in the 2011 AV referendum the Yes campaign (infamously) decided against doing a full delivery.

Why did this arrive after my postal vote?

It largely depends upon when the leaflets were delivered to Royal Mail. The final deadlines for submission are usually after the bulk of postal votes go out and the distribution is often staggered. Unaddressed freeposts (more on these below) are especially vulnerable to this but also some are sent in batches so the ones to postal voters arrive earlier; however not every party or candidate will have the most up to date postal vote list to hand.

How did [X] party get my address details?

Political parties and candidates are allowed access to the electoral register for election purposes, including sending literature to voters.

I am on the closed register so why am I receiving this?

The option to opt out of the "open" version of the register only applies to its commercial sale to marketing companies. Political parties and candidates have the full register.

I am a citizen of an EU country who cannot vote in general elections so why did I receive an addressed leaflet in a general election?

Citizens of EU member states (excluding the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta) resident in the UK can only vote in local & devolved and, if they complete the correct form and get it processed in time, EU Parliament elections. If they receive an addressed mailing the most likely reason is that a party has used the wrong franchise selection on their register database.

Why did only some of us in this home receive addressed leaflets? 
Why did we get different leaflets?

Some parties and candidates will try to maximise the effect of the freepost by sending more than one leaflet to a home wherever possible. A common tactic is to send a first leaflet to the first named person on the register for an address and then a second leaflet to the second named person. Other parties may have limited resources and will only send one leaflet per household but address it to a named voter to navigate shared letterboxes and the like.

Why is this leaflet addressed to someone I've never heard of?

Either they're a past resident at your address who is still listed there on the electoral register (or on an outdated one used by a party) or there's been a major database screw-up, which has hit one party this year.

Why are some not addressed at all?

Some parties and candidates opt to send unaddressed leaflets to all households. Both addressed and unaddressed are options available with Royal Mail, though not all printers are set up for individual addressed leaflets.

Why did I receive this when I have a "No junk mail" sign up?

Political communications do not meet the official definition of junk mail.

Political parties have announced a suspension of campaigning so why was this delivered?

This came up a bit in the 2017 general election. Once the leaflets have been submitted and accepted by Royal Mail, they are out of control of the parties who are unable to then get delivery delayed. Royal Mail's internal set-up simply doesn't allow for such an instruction to go through and be implemented.

Why have I received a leaflet for a different constituency?

Annoyingly some leaflets seem to turn up in neighbouring constituencies despite everything being correctly filled out. In my experience these are usually unaddressed freeposts and the problem stems from postal areas not aligning to administrative boundaries, ranging from the post code to regional level.

Why does [X] have my details when they're not a political party, but a registered company?

All political parties listed on the ballot paper are officially registered with the Electoral Commission on the Register of Political Parties. Some parties may also be registered as companies for operational reasons (e.g. here's "The Liberal Democrats Limited"'s registration at Companies House) but if they're on the register of parties then they are a recognised political party, no matter how many times somebody tweets otherwise.

Independent candidates are also entitled to a copy of the register for electoral purposes.


ipsworkforce said...
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