This morning Synod debated some changes to the Church Representation Rules. One of these turned out to be controversial. This was to repeal the provision that dioceses should provide candidates in elections to General Synod with a list of e-mail addresses of electors (where available). The reasons for this were set out in an Explanatory Memorandum from which the following is the relevant extract.
13. Paragraph 6 gives effect to recommendation (g) of the report, to the effect that the requirement contained in Rule 39(5)(b) CRR and Rule 20(3)(b) Clergy Representation Rules to supply candidates in elections to the General Synod with e-mail addresses should be repealed.
14. In the elections to General Synod in 2005 a number of dioceses had noted with concern the impact of the Data Protection Act in relation to the new requirement to communicate electors’ e-mail addresses to candidates where electors had authorised the use of such an address. Those implications arose in terms of (a) the need for the explicit consent of individual electors to be obtained to allow their e-mail addresses to be circulated to candidates and (b) the need to protect electors from subsequent over disclosure of their e-mail addresses by candidates. The Group took the view that the requirement to supply e-mail addresses placed a disproportionate cost on dioceses in relation to the theoretical benefit that might be gained if a candidate asked for the list, as the sparsity of email addresses made it ineffective as a resource for electioneering purposes. Additionally, while everyone had a postal address of some kind, there were still people who did not have e-mail addresses, and so it would be impossible to require either electors or candidates to provide them.
Synod members argued that this was a backward move and did not agree that the practical problems were good enough reason to stop making e-mail addresses available. The proposal was thrown out.
Note: In elections to General Synod candidates can send a two-page election address to each elector at the expense of the diocese. Candidates are also entitled to a list of names and addresses of electors so that they can send out further election material at their own expense. The number of electors in each constituency is typically several hundred.