The electoral register is quite simply the list of people who have registered to vote in elections in the United Kingdom.
The register itself is held at the local council offices, and it lists the name and address of everybody who has registered to vote. By law, the local authority has to make it available for everybody to inspect.
Until recently, anybody could buy a copy of the register. But more recently, the government has changed the law so you can decide who can buy the details of your name and address, giving rise to two versions - the "full version" and the "edited register".
The full register has the names and addresses of everyone registered to vote and is updated every month. Anyone can look at it, but copies can only be supplied for certain purposes, such as elections and law enforcement. Credit reference agencies are also allowed to use the full register, but only to check your name and address if you are applying for credit, and to help stop money laundering. Passing on information from this register is unlawful. You do not have a choice about your name and address being on this register.
The edited register will be available for general sale and can be used for any purpose - however, you can choose not to be on it. It is kept separate from the full register and also updated every month. The edited register can be bought by any person, company or organisation and could be used for different purposes such as checking your identity and commercial activities such as marketing.
Every year, the local council sends out a registration form to every residential property in their area. There is no obligation to register to vote, however, if you don't do so, apart from not being able to vote, you may have problems getting credit as described above. It is an offense to actually put down false information. You can be entered on the register from when you are 17 years old, although you can't actually vote until you're 18. This ensures that if there's an election shortly after your 18th birthday, you'll be able to vote. There is a box on the form where you can decide if you want your name to appear on the edited register.
The other main purpose of the electoral register is for selecting people for jury duty - all the names come from the electoral register.