More than 230,000 people across the region are at risk of losing their right to vote, under a radical elections shake-up.
They are on course to drop off electoral rolls because of moves to require residents to register individually, rather than allowing one person to sign up an entire household.
Before the switch – to combat electoral fraud – election chiefs have sought to “match” voters from existing databases, automatically transferring names they can verify.
But, in County Durham alone, 45,989 people – or 11 per cent of the adult population – could not be matched and are currently missing from the new register.
There are also huge numbers to be found in Darlington (8,506, 11 per cent), Middlesbrough (11,026, 11 per cent), Richmondshire (3,996, 11 per cent) and – in particular – Newcastle (36,678, 18 per cent) and York (36,283, 23 per cent).
Areas with a high density of young adults, private renters and students have the most alarming gaps in their new rolls.
Missing voters have already been chased up with letters, asking them to provide additional information – their National Insurance number and date of birth – so they can be registered.
But Labour has warned the change is being rushed, calling for “block registration” of students and people in residential homes, to ensure they stay on lists.
Stephen Twigg, the party’s constitutional affairs spokesman, said:
“There is real concern about a large number of people falling off the register.
Warning 7.5m names were already missing, Mr Twigg added:
“If an unintended consequence of IER is that the situation gets even worse, all of us should be very concerned.”
But David Collingwood, Durham’s electoral services manager, played down talk of problems, saying:
“New enquiry forms for further information will be followed up with personal visits if necessary.
“We are confident this process will see the majority successfully switched to the new system and be eligible to vote.”
Jenny Watson, its chairwoman, added:
“There’s still more work to do. Every electoral registration officer has detailed plans in place to reach those residents they were not able to transfer automatically.”
IER – described as the biggest change to the electoral registration system in almost 100 years – has been deliberately delayed until after next year’s general election.
But Mr Twigg said rolling over existing lists would not capture people who have moved house – or turned 18 – since the last registers were compiled.
Source – Northern Echo, 31 Oct 2014
Cash strapped Newcastle City Council has had to fork out £50,000 to put right an error in a letter sent to around 180,000 voters.
The council wrote to all electors in the city on July 18 to inform them of changes in how they register to vote.
However, it contained a blunder in the section of the letter which stated whether or not they were on the open register.
Electors who were not on it were incorrectly informed that they were, and those who were, told they were not.
The error was confined to the wording of the letter, and the register is correct.
It’s understood it was down to human error – not a computer glitch – and that no data protection breach has occurred.
To sort out the mistake, the council has now rewritten to all the electors again which should arrive on Thursday, this time with the correct wording and has apologised for the confusion.
Council chief executive Pat Ritchie, speaking in her role as Electoral Registration Officer, said: “We got it wrong and I would like to apologise for any confusion.
“I’d also like to reassure everyone that although the wording in the letter was wrong the register is correct and no one’s details have been compromised in any way.”
Lib Dem Councillor Greg Stone said: “I was contacted by a number of concerned residents who were worried their data would be disclosed to marketers and used by cold callers.
“I contacted the council and asked for clarification and I was told it was down to incorrect wording.
“It’s caused a lot of anxiety and I don’t think it has been well handled.
“At a time when the council says it is strapped for cash, and with people complaining about the state of the streets, this is money that could have been better spent.”
The open register is an edited version of the electoral register which can be bought by companies to check voters’ names and addresses.
Everyone is on it unless they request to be removed from it which they can do by contacting the council’s Electoral Services by phone on 0191 2787878 and asking for Electoral Services, or emailing email@example.com.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Aug 2014
> Meanwhile, down on Teesside…
Residents who have requested that their electoral roll details are not available for sale to businesses have been assured that this will remain the case.
It comes after Middlesbrough Council sent out letters explaining a new way of registering for the electoral register.
An error by the printers meant that some letters include incorrect information on the open register – previously known as the edited register – which is available for all businesses or organisations to buy.
But the authority has now issued an assurance to anyone who has previously asked for their details to be omitted from the open register that this will still be the case.
The letters were sent out to residents as part of the annual canvass of electors.
For the first time the majority of electors will not need to take any action to be included on the new electoral register.
Any Middlesbrough residents who might have any concerns about the register can contact electoral services on 01642 729771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 05 Aug 2014