Redrawing the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies is not the only wizard new wheeze from Young Dave and his jolly good chaps: the electoral register has been subjected recently to what has been promoted as a “cleaning up” exercise, which is being sold as a means of reducing the opportunity for electoral fraud. But one party has, purely by coincidence you understand, not been concerned about the results.has noted, the figures “showed a drop of more than 230,000 in the number of people registered to vote in London for the May 5 mayoral election”.
But the population of the capital is rising: “Despite the capital’s growing population, the number of registered voters for local polls fell from 5,876,329 at the end of 2013 to 5,645,254 as of December 1, 2015 … An even more dramatic decline was seen among 16 and 17-year-olds in London who will turn 18 within the next two years — down by more than 20,000 from 51,182 in 2013 to 30,736 as of December”.
That last figure is the most worrying one, and highly likely to have been affected by the change to individual registration - heads of households will have done this job in the past, and may not have realised they need to get their children up to speed on doing it now. For the country as a whole, the numbers are, to no surprise, rather more alarming: the Guardian has reported that “The Electoral Commission said about 770,000 names were removed from the register as the government introduced the requirement that people sign up as individuals rather than as households”.
As with so many such changes, the question has to be asked: who benefits? It is not hard to figure out. While Labour tells that “the huge number of deletions meant hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of disenfranchisement, highlighting a particular problem in university towns and among younger people who are almost eligible to vote”, and the Lib Dems’ Tom Brake called the changes “deeply concerning”, adding “The government ignored its own independent regulator of elections”, the Tories are unconcerned.
And the Electoral Commission has conceded “it was not possible to estimate the number of eligible electors who were removed from the registers, but it is likely that some of the removed entries related to electors who were eligible to remain registered to vote”.
First time voters lean towards parties like Labour and the Lib Dems. Populations of University towns, comprising not just students, but all the not particularly well paid researchers whose funding has been subject to recent cutbacks, are likely to have similar political inclinations. Those at the bottom end of the pile, if they don’t get knowledgeable in short order, may find themselves denied their democratic right.
The impression is given that the Tories have rushed through this change to gain themselves an advantage they do not merit. And that’s not good enough.