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
Thousands of the region’s teenagers risk losing their right to vote in the general election after a Government blunder, MPs are warning.
Local authorities are failing to register “attainers” – 17-year-olds who could be adults by May 7 – after errors in letters drafted by the Cabinet Office, they say
Now figures reveal an extraordinary 80 per cent fall in attainers on the books of just one council, County Durham.
If the slump – of just over 3,000, in just one year – is replicated across the region, it would mean that close to 20,000 first-time voters could lost their vote.
The controversy was raised in a recent Commons debate by Kevan Jones, the North Durham MP, who described the situation as a “scandal”.
In North Durham constituency, there were 647 attainers on the register in February last year, but that number has plummeted to just 126 one year later – after the mistake.
The pattern is repeated in Bishop Auckland (a fall from 662 attainers to 118), Durham City (from 625 to 177), Easington (from 641 to 95), North West Durham (from 689 to 156) and in Sedgefield (from 513 to 97).
Mr Jones said:
“We could put the fall down to a drop in the birth rate in 1997 – clearly there was a lack of passion in North Durham – but that is obviously not the case.”
And he said:
“That must be done, otherwise many 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before May 7 will assume that they will get a vote, but will not get it.”
Under the old system, where the head of the household registered all voters, a section of the form asked for the names of any 17-year-olds to be added.
But the sentence is missing from letters sent out under the new system – of individual electoral registration (IER) – which is being introduced to combat fraud.
In reply, the deputy Commons leader Tom Brake, promised to write to Mr Jones, but stopped short of agreeing to instruct – and fund – town halls, to correct the problem.
Meanwhile, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman criticised a separate barrier in the way of young people attempting to register – the requirement to provide a national insurance number.
She told ministers:
“A letter with a young person’s national insurance number arrives before they are 16 and we are suggesting that two years later teenagers will know where that letter is and have kept it in a safe place. I cannot think of anything more naïve.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Feb 2015
Tens of thousands of potential voters in the North East have dropped off the electoral register in what has been described as a “crisis of democratic engagement” in the UK.
In a series of worrying figures, one blackspot has been revealed as Newcastle where 18,000 have dropped off the register.
Worst affected is the Ouseburn ward in Newcastle East, home to many students, where there has been a 55% drop off of registered voters totalling 9,982, in the last year alone.
At the 2010 general election, Labour MP Nick Brown won Newcastle East with a 4,453 majority.
Other areas highlighted include Gateshead with a 12,962 drop off, Sunderland with 5,776 and Derwentside in Durham with 3,280.
They are among approximately 7.5 million people nationwide who are missing from national registers.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “This is not just a scandal, it is a disaster for our democracy.”
With the May 2015 general election fast approaching, efforts are being stepped up to get as many enrolled as possible before the April 20 deadline.
Independent campaign group Bite The Ballot highlighted the situation by designating last Thursday as National Voter Registration Day in a bid to get 250,000 to register.
> Last Thursday, eh ? Did you know that ? No, nor me.
I wonder how many of those missing voters it actually reached ?
Meanwhile the Electoral Commission has arranged for a reminder to appear on the Facebook page of every UK user of the social network.
It follows the Commission’s discovery – through polling by YouGov – that four in 10 people, and more than half (53%) of 18 to 24-year-olds, remain unaware that they can register to vote online.
Almost one million people have dropped off the electoral register since the implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) last summer, mostly students, first time voters and those living in private rented accommodation and those from newer immigrant communities.
As a result of IER, rather than one person in a household registering everyone or a university signing up all its students in halls, each individual is now responsible for registering themselves. In addition, they have to supply a National Insurance number.
A Commons committee used the focus to renew its demands that government consider radical reforms to boost engagement and election turnout, including online voting, weekend elections, polling-day registration and a “none of the above” option.
> A “none of the above” option would be good. I’d go further and link the number of none of the above votes nationally to MP’s pay. The more there are, the less the MPs get.
At the 2010 general election, 16 million eligible voters – 34.9% of the electorate did not take part – more than voted for any one party.
Graham Allen MP, chairman of the Commons political and constitutional reform committee, said:
“This is not an acceptable state of affairs for a modern democracy.
“If we do not take urgent action to make elections more accessible to the public and convince them that it is worth voting we will be facing a crisis of democratic engagement.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said:
“Over one million 16-24-year-olds have registered since the new system was introduced, and everyone else is being contacted directly and encouraged to use the new convenient online registration system. We’re also providing over £14 million of funding to support the costs of activities at a local and national level to maximise the number of people on the register.”
How to register
If you are 16 or over you can register through the Government website, www.gov.uk/register-to-vote .
You’ll need your National Insurance number, and the registration process takes around five minutes. It can also be done by post.
The process is also explained on the Bite the Ballot website on www.bitetheballot.co.uk/nvrd/
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015