The Cabinet Office today announced what has been pretty obvious for some years. The Co-ordinated Online Record of Electors (CORE) project is dead.
In some respects this project, previously known as LASER, was a classic government centralised database nightmare. At one point its business case depended on sales to marketing companies, but a legal challenge put an end to that (see for example page iv of this PDF), resulting in a complete rethink.
The risk of an online central database was not just of our privacy and error, but that this would become a convenient starting point for the slippery slope to online voting or an ID cards database.
On the positive side some of the work necessary would improve and standardise electoral registers across the country, potentially helping to reduce fraud and error – particularly multiple registrations and failure to notify when moving.
In my view the risks and costs outweighed the benefits. But even with CORE confirmed dead, we should still aim to standardise and improve the UK’s electoral registers, including through the use of Election Markup Language.