Sharon has welcomed a cross-party, multi-organisation campaign led by Bite The Ballot to increase voter registration the same week that Labour Party figures show that over 1200 electors in Washington and Sunderland West have dropped off the electoral register – a percentage total of 1.8%.
This drop off is down to the current Conservative Government’s plans which brought forward by 12 months the full implementation of Individual Voter Registration (IER), which took place on December 1st 2015. These figures come the same week as Bite The Ballot’s ‘National Voter Registration Drive 2016’- a cross-party, multi-organisation campaign to increase voter registration.
Labour support the move to IER, but opposed the decision to bring forward the implementation due to concerns that earlier implementation would lead to a large number of people falling off the register and instead called for a transitional period with strong safeguards that would have mitigated against any damage to the electoral register.
Late last year, Labour led a national campaign to highlight the changes and make sure people were registered to vote register ahead of the move to IER last December and has called on the Government to issue guidance to make it easier for universities, local authorities, electoral registration offices and other Government agencies to work together to ensure no-one is disenfranchised from voting in elections.
In reaction to the drop off figures, Sharon said:
“It is concerning that in Washington and Sunderland West there has been a drop of over 1200 electors from the electoral register, which included as part of the national picture marks the biggest disenfranchisement in our history.
“Labour opposed the plans to bring forward the changes to voter registration for these exact reasons, and campaigned at the end of last year to make sure people were registered to vote and instead wanted to see a transitional period with strong safeguards to mitigate against this drop-off.
“With local elections coming up in May along with an expected EU Referendum in the summer it is important, now more than ever, that people are registered to vote and don’t lose out on exercising their democratic right and I welcome the week-long voter registration drive being led by Bite The Ballot to ensure people can cast their vote on polling day.”
Make sure you are registered to vote by visiting the gov.uk website here.
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Sharon Hodgson MP responds to recent concerns by constituents on the changes to Individual Electoral Registration (IER).
Electoral registration is a vital component of our democracy and it is essential that the public have confidence in the accuracy of the electoral register. It is also important that the register is as inclusive as possible so that everybody who is eligible to vote can have the opportunity to participate in elections.
I support the phased introduction of IER as I believe it can, if properly implemented, reduce electoral fraud and modernise how we carry out elections. However, I am extremely concerned at the reckless way this Government, and the previous Coalition Government, have gone about introducing IER. Both Governments have ignored repeated warnings that stripping out safeguards and speeding up the process of IER will risk millions of registered voters being disenfranchised.
Indeed, as a number of charities have pointed out, up to 1.9 million people may fall off the register in December if the Government go ahead with their plans to end the transition period to IER a year earlier than previously proposed, and this is clearly very worrying. It is also particularly alarming that certain groups of voters - students, those living in private rented accommodation and those in sheltered housing - may be particularly likely to be disenfranchised by this timetable.
I believe the Government now urgently need to ensure that the move to IER does not leave millions unregistered or lead to constituencies that fail to take into account the people who live in them. That is why I support the block registration by universities and care homes. I would also be open to considering the idea of an automatic system of registration, and I think this should be explored further.
I hope the Government listen to these extremely serious concerns and the advice of the independent Electoral Commission, who have recently recommended that the transition period to IER should continue until December 2016.
Make sure that you are registered to vote. It only takes a few minutes and can be done online at the gov.uk website here.