A Newcastle constituency is one of the worst in the UK for voters falling off the electoral register.
In the last year more than 9,000 potential voters have dropped off the list in Newcastle East, with only Cardiff Central and Liverpool Riverside having worse figures.
A spokesman for the BiteTheBallot campaign group which is fighting to get more people on the electoral register before the May general election said the figure was “an absolute disgrace”.
The controversial switch from household to individual electoral registration has caused a great deal of problems for local authorities whose electoral registration officers are continuing to run into problems with their electoral management software systems.
“The number of people on the register has dropped yet the Government and the Electoral Commission don’t have a plan to deal with this and it’s extremely worrying,” said the BiteTheBallot spokesman.
It was revealed last week that local authorities had been given an extra £20m in a bid to solve this.
However the spokesman was dismissive of the move, saying it would be spent mostly on sending out letters.
He said: “It’s about getting people into the community to engage with them and get them interested in politics and registering for the vote.”
The spokesman revealed the group has a Community Engagement Officer, Megan Patterson, who is working with Durham County Council and visiting local schools, sixth form colleges and youth clubs.
“She is doing stellar work in getting people registered. It’s labour intensive but it works.”
According to the Office for National Statistics there were 58,557 people registered to vote in Newcastle East as of December 2014.
This is an 13.8% decrease on the 67,945 people who were registered to vote in the constituency on December 1, 2013, the third biggest decrease for any of the 591 parliamentary constituencies in England Wales and Northern Ireland.
The ONS estimates there are 84,394 people aged 18 and above living in Newcastle East which means that only 69.4% of the potentially eligible voting population is in fact registered to vote.
However this percentage is likely to be higher as the population estimates also include people who are not eligible to vote such as those born overseas.
Ironically not far behind Newcastle in numbers falling off the electoral register is City of Durham where the BiteTheBallot community engagement officer is working.
It has seen an 11.5% drop in the year from 73,036 to 64,614.
Across the whole of Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham there was a fall of 3.8% in the number of people registered to vote with declines in all but one constituency.
Source – Sunday Sun, 01 Mar 2015
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