Individual Voter Registration September 2015
Thank you for contacting me recently concerning the full implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER).
I Chaired the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee for the last five years and made participation one of our main priorities. You can view the committee’s reports here:
I appreciate the Hope Not Hate campaign effort to ensure that every eligible citizen has a chance to participate in the democratic process and is not simply left out because of an administrative issue. I am deeply concerned that according to the Hope Not Hate report over 12,000 people in Nottingham would drop off the register at the end of this year.
I welcomed the launch of online voter registration as I believe this encouraged more people to sign up to vote. When I was the chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee we looked at IER into great detail. Under-registration remains a huge problem in our country – especially amongst younger people. Around half of those aged between 18 and 24 are not registered to vote, compared to just six per cent of those above the age of 65.
I am a great supporter of campaigning groups such as Bite the Ballot, which runs National Voter Registration Day which this year saw more than 150,000 people registered during a single day.
The Government originally planned to make transitional arrangements for voters to remain on the electoral register until December 2016, even if they were not either confirmed onto the new register via data matching or registered individually, but brought it forward to December 2015. I am alarmed that the Government’s decision to rush the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration is very likely to reduce levels of registration further and thus deepen the democratic deficit. The Government’s own figures show that more than eight million voters risk falling off the register.
The Government must give local councils more time and adequate resources otherwise our democracy could be damaged. Unlike David Cameron, Labour is not prepared to take the same risks.
As you may be aware, at the 2015 General Election, I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to ensure that the move to individual electoral registration does not leave millions unregistered, nor lead to constituencies that fail to take into account the people who live in them.
It also included a commitment to block registration by universities and care homes, extending Northern Ireland’s successful ‘Schools Initiative’, and exploring the scope for an automatic system of registration. I believe that those are important steps which would help to increase the number of people registered.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. I will continue to demand that the Government allow longer transitional period and thus ensure that as many people as possible are registered.