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Democracy threatened

Millions set to lose vote under Tory reforms
Douglas Beattie, Thursday, September 10th, 2015


Unite is calling on the government to end what it calls a “shocking attack on democracy” because of Tory changes to voter registration.

 

Rushed changes

 

Figures suggest two million people are set to be wiped from the electoral roll by Christmas as ministers rush through reforms which many voters are unaware of.

 

The pace of proposed changes to voter registration was increased in the summer without fanfare, via a written statement to Parliament.

 

This took a year off the transition period to the new system which means people must now register to vote individually, rather being registered as part of a household or university group.

 

Anyone who hasn’t re-registered, or whose councils are unable to match with tax or benefit records, will simply be removed from the list in December.

 

Even the government’s own advisory body – the Electoral Commission – has warned against the move with around eight million potential voters already missing from the electoral roll.

 

Under planned changes brought about by the Individual Electoral Registration process, that figure would rise to a staggering ten million disenfranchised citizens.

 

The London borough of Hackney, which has a high proportion of people renting accommodation, is the worst hit with 23 per cent of its electors set to lose out.

 

Across London the figure is seven per cent, in Cambridge it’s 17 per cent, nearly eight per cent in Birmingham and 5.5 per cent in Scotland.

 

In the run up to the general election in May Unite worked with Hope Not Hate and other groups on the #NoVoteNoVoice campaign which tracked down millions of missing voters.

 

However with millions more set to be excluded the union remains deeply concerned about the democratic deficit.

 

Attack on democracy 

 

“This is a shocking attack on democracy by a government which seems content to preside over the biggest disenfranchisement in British history,” said Unite’s political director Jennie Formby.

 

“Millions of people are set to lose the vote because of a Tory rule change”, she added. “Make no mistake the vast majority will be people in rented accommodation, deprived communities and among ethnic minorities.”

 

Formby also said ministers were trying to manipulate electoral registration to gain clear political advantage.

 

“We should seriously question the ethics of this” she said. “The new register will form the basis of Commons boundary changes and David Cameron is using underhand tactics to maximise the chances of a Tory victory in 2020.

 

“This is wholly anti-democratic and flies in the face of any notion of British fair play. The government should be ashamed.”

 

The Boundary Commission is due to begin work next April to implement Tory plans to reduce the number of MPs, with many commentators suggesting Labour could lose around thirty seats.

 

The Electoral Reform Society has suggested that by then the electoral roll will no longer be fit for purpose, saying, “coupled with the overall reduction of MPs from 650 to 600, this leads to an absurd situation where there will be fewer MPs for the areas of greatest need.”

 

 

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