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James Smith

Building a better future out of code

Electoral Numbers

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Last night I went around rounding up signatures for nominations, and checking the signers against the electoral register. This is a short story about consistency of naming and data.

The form has two columns for the “electoral number” for each signer. The headings on mine were “Distinctive letter”, and “Number”.

The register itself has three columnns. The first is called “Elector Number Prefix”; the second “Elector Number”, and then “Elector Number Suffix”.

Nothing I could find explains what the mapping is, or gives an example of the format expected.

After looking at nomination forms I found on the web in other constituencies, I satisfied myself that the prefix and distinctive letter were the same thing; the ward identifier, normally made up of 2-3 letters (not one!).

That just left the number.

In the register, the names are arranged by address, and each is given a consecutive number. So I might be 124, and my wife at the same address might be 123 (as she’s before me in the alphabet). Our next door neighbours might be 125, 126, etc. The suffix for all of these is 0. However, some people have the same number as someone else in the same household, and a suffix of 1 or 2. I assume this is for people who are newly-registered at the address since the register was created.

So, my assumption is that the elector number is the number and the suffix, making my number 124/0, not 124. That way, a new voter in my household could be 124/1, 124/2, etc. It’s like numbering your lines 10, 20, 30, back in the early days of BASIC, so you’ve got somewhere to fit more stuff in.

However, having emailed my completed forms over ahead of my appointment tomorrow for an informal check, I find this is wrong. The suffix is only included in the number if it’s non-zero. So, I’m 124, and the others would be 124/1, 124/2, etc. Fortunately I can just cross off the zeroes and don’t have to get everyone to sign a new form.

Someone here isn’t aware of the difference between zero and null1. This is why computers have a hard time with fluffy human-created data.

  1. The discovery of zero was a major milestone in maths. Is the discovery of null equally so? Hmmm. 


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