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
A voting switch-over has hit university cities like Newcastle the hardest – with 18,500 people now missing from the electoral register in Tyneside.
Newcastle is among the worst-hit of the English core cities after a change in voter registration came into effect in the summer.
New figures show that thousands of people, including many students, failed to register when sent a letter in the post explaining that they now need to register individually, rather than through the traditional ‘head of the household’.
Plans for the change to Individual Voter Registration were brought in by the Labour government and taken up by the coalition Government.
Now city councillors are attempting to get voters back on the register, and are asking people to make sure they’ve signed up so they can play their part when the election comes round in May 2015.
Among the most affected wards are those popular with students, like the Ouseburn ward, which lost 4,673 voters. The Westgate and Wingrove wards also lost over 1000 voters each.
Stephen Powers, Ouseburn ward councillor and deputy cabinet member for Community Safety and Regulation, said:
“It’s had a massive impact on some of our cities in terms of the number of people that have gone from the old register.
“The way the system worked is that you would have had the head of the household and they could have filled out the form for everybody and now under the new system each person has to do it themselves and supply their national insurance number.
“The big group that we’ve lost is students in halls of residence as the university used to act as the head of the household.”
In some wards of university town Oxford, up to 60% of its previously registered student population has disappeared from the new list.
Coun. Powers said that Newcastle City Council has been given a fund to try and increase voter registration, but that councillors will have to work at full capacity to try and get the message across the university students.
He said: “It’s going to be an uphill battle to reach that many people.”
The council intend on sending a notification letter to all households in February next year.
This will give an early opportunity for anyone not registered to apply in time for the May elections. It is also simple to register to vote online. Go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Dec 2014