Council Spotlight: Rushmoor Council’s digital election service

Local Digital
Local Digital
Published in
6 min readJul 12


In this guest blog post from Rushmoor Borough Council, the team explains how they took a user-centred approach to digitalising and improving their elections service.

The new digital service is already easing the pressure on their Elections team and leading to a more seamless and user-friendly experience for their customers.

Identifying the problem

At Rushmoor, we work hard to ensure service delivery design is centred around the needs of our customers. Making sure our services are set up well for customers also helps to create efficient working practices for our colleagues.

The Council recognises the important role of the electoral service in maintaining a healthy democracy, so it was a priority for us to ensure we were doing all we could to deliver excellent customer service while reducing workload for the team.

The Elections team were putting a lot of effort into carrying out manual and repetitive checks for customers, sending and processing paperwork and ensuring compliance with legislation — all of which help to maintain an effective registration process. They considered the electoral annual calendar to be a series of administrative tasks focussed on milestones, prescribed in legislation, that helped to improve the accuracy of the electoral register and facilitate elections.

While the team’s focus was heavily on the maintenance of the register, and less so on customer experience, they did recognise that there were opportunities to reduce paperwork and associated costs, and consequently improve efficiency.

A powerful shift in thinking

The Election team’s enthusiasm to make changes led them to conduct a review of the service during 2017 and 2018, to better understand the electoral annual cycle from the customer’s perspective.

Through talking to customers, running demand captures and analysing data, the project team gained an understanding of our users’ needs and what really matters to them. This provided great insight into how our system was working and where we could improve customer journeys. Most importantly, it refocused the purpose of the service towards ‘enabling customers to vote’.

Adjusting the team’s way of thinking and putting their focus on customers created a powerful shift. The team moved from being driven by legislation and administrative tasks to having a real understanding of their customers and a determination to improve services based on their needs — one of the key principles of the Local Digital Declaration — while delivering service in line with legislation.

What the review taught us about our customers

There is customer contact throughout the electoral calendar, and we see peaks during certain periods such as before the elections, during the canvass, and in response to household notification letters. The review taught us that customer demands were largely the same throughout, it was only the quantity that changed.

Most customers were contacting the Elections team via phone or email to check if they were registered, check their voting method, and make changes to their registration details. This provided some clear customer journeys that could be improved for both customers and the team. Our digital offering at this time was minimal, with no link to back-office systems, meaning customers were unable to check their registration or voting method status online.

The team also learnt to see the electoral calendar as an end-to-end process/cycle for customers — recognising the impact of one ‘event’ on another, and how they are linked and experienced from a customer perspective — rather than viewing their work as independent activities.

Developing the ‘Check I’m registered’ digital service

Throughout the review, Andrew Colver, the project sponsor and Head of Democracy at the time, had regular contact with the Cabinet Office, who were interested to see the findings. The team were delighted to have the opportunity to share their experience and learnings, and the Cabinet Office were pleased that Rushmoor had shown the initiative to review the work and put residents at the centre while developing improvements to current systems.

Building on the success of Rushmoor’s environmental digital services (providing user-friendly rubbish and recycling services) we developed the first of our elections digital services. Continuing to apply the GOV.UK design principles, we designed the Check I’m registered digital service to provide customers with real-time information on their electoral registration.

Rushmoor’s ‘Check I’m registered’ digital service.

Helping customers apply for a postal vote

Following the successful implementation of ‘Check I’m registered’, we went on to develop another digital service where customers can apply for a postal vote. Postal voting is a convenient and often preferred method of voting for many customers. However, the process of applying was not user-friendly or efficient and we were seeing a high number of unreturned, incomplete, and incorrect application forms.

The service design process was a collaborative effort, with members of the Elections team, IT and digital, and the web and communications teams coming together to design something that worked for users, using the expertise of everyone in their individual roles.

Having everyone in a ‘virtual room’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions enabled us to make quick and informed decisions. The team worked in a more agile way, making progress quickly and navigating hurdles as they arose. The project team did so by creating an open and honest environment where everyone felt able to share their views, concerns, and problems. The result was a service designed for users and enabled by technology.

One benefit of developing digital services in-house is that we can easily make changes as required — whether driven from user insight, legislative changes, or business as usual changes, such as the yearly changes relating to elections dates.

One element we changed shortly after implementation of the ‘Apply for a postal vote’ service was to add an image editing tool to the signature upload part of the process. This had a significant impact on the image quality we received and subsequently reduced manual editing by the Elections team.

Rushmoor’s ‘Apply for a postal vote’ digital service.

An improved experience for our residents and colleagues

We have seen a real channel shift in how customers are accessing our Elections service. Prior to the implementation of these services, most postal vote applications were made by post, and we received 2,516 applications during 2016.

Most ‘Check I’m registered’ enquiries were via phone, with an average of 2 per day. In the run up to the Election in 2023, 50% of postal vote applications were received via our online service or email, and 472 customers used the ‘Check I’m registered’ service — an average of 4 per day.

Offering digital services has eased the pressure on the Election team by reducing phone demand, especially in the run up to an election and on election day. We now offer a seamless postal vote application process, which has minimised the number of non-returned or incomplete applications. The postal vote service removed the potential for incomplete applications, and following changes to the signature upload functionality, the number of invalid applications is very low.

The new services are also working for customers. The ‘Check I’m registered’ service has received a satisfaction rating of over 90% and consistently receives a completion rate of 80%. In the run up to the Election in May 2023, the service identified 314 customers who were not registered, enabling efficient signposting to the GOV.UK registration process.

User satisfaction for the ‘Apply for a postal vote’ service is lower at around 70%, with a completion rate of 64% in the run up to the election in 2023. While most customers complete the process, our largest drop off is at the point where users are required to upload their signature. This is something that could be addressed by a fully automated system when legislation permits

The number of users increases for both digital services in the run up to an election, and in the case of the ‘Check I’m registered’ service, increases again in August-September time due to the canvass.

While we are aware of national changes to postal vote applications later in 2023, and consequently the decommissioning of this service, we remain very proud of our work on the Elections service to date. We have demonstrated the benefits of collaborative working and how data insight can shift how colleagues view their customers.

What’s next for the service? We will continue to monitor the performance of our digital services and make iterative changes that are based on the needs of our customers.

Would you like to celebrate your digital achievements in a future issue of our Council Spotlight blog post series? Find out more and apply to take part.



Local Digital
Local Digital

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