ISSUED ON BEHALF OF AYRSHIRE VALUATION JOINT BOARD
The investigation into a printer error that saw incorrect voter details sent to thousands of households across Ayrshire has concluded with the external print company paying Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board's (AVJB) costs to reissue more than 160,000 electoral Household Enquiry Forms.
The Information Commissioner's Office – which AVJB reported the matter to – has also confirmed that no further action is necessary. The Commissioner's decision was based on the fact that the nature of personal data involved was very limited and the vast majority was already or will be in the public domain.
The conclusion of the investigation means the total costs of £50,185.54 for the reissue of the forms will be paid in full by sub-contracted printer, with no costs incurred by the AVJB, which is the body responsible for electoral registration in Ayrshire and is separate from the three Ayrshire Councils.
AVJB worked with the printer to identify what had gone wrong with the printing of the Household Enquiry Forms and why; and to put in place measures to ensure the same mistake doesn't happen again.
The investigation identified that the printing problem arose when the printer's 'script' – which it used to read the data provided by AVJB and convert it into the printed Household Enquiry Forms – encountered additional blank records for properties with seven or more electors.
The system used to send the electoral information data to the printer had created these 'blank' records for 21 properties with seven or more electors. The printer essentially then tried to print forms from these blank records, which it should not have been able to do.
With no data available, it jumped to the next record on the data file for the elector information – this meant the forms were printed with the correct address and security code information, but the wrong elector names.
Helen McPhee, Electoral Registration Officer, said: "Basically, the problem arose from how the printer's system 'read' the data file we provided. And although only a very small number of records included these erroneous blank records, the knock-on effect was significant and affected thousands of printed forms.
"Our online records, which were based on the same data file, were not affected.
"Despite the quality-checking procedures we had in place for the printed forms, no records used at that stage were affected by the error, and this meant the problem wasn't identified until the forms actually reached households.
"We're very sorry for any distress or inconvenience this caused and thank everyone for their patience and co-operation during the re-issue of the forms and the related investigation.
"We have now put enhanced data checking, quality checking and security measures in place to ensure this cannot happen again and have asked the printer to review its printing script so that only the relevant data is extracted for printing purposes in future.
"I would remind anyone who has yet to complete and return their Household Enquiry Form to do so as soon as possible. I would also remind people that the elector information included on the forms is based on the current version of the electoral register.
"So, if you haven't let us know that you've moved house or changed your name, you need to do that so you can be assured of your inclusion on the electoral register and be eligible to vote in forthcoming elections."
Further information on the Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board can be found at www.ayrshire-vjb.gov.uk.