Less than a year after the general election, another set of elections are on the horizon – and the stakes this time are just as high.
On May 5, the UK goes back to the polls in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; in England, local government and mayoral elections will be held as well as elections for police and crime commissioner.
But none of these choices will be yours to make if you aren’t registered to vote. With the deadline fast approaching on Monday (April 18), those who haven’t signed up will have to sit out from these vital elections – and sitting at home is exactly what the Tory government wants us to do.
As UNITElive has previously reported, the government rushed through the introduction of a new voter registration system that requires voters to individually register themselves.
This replaced an old system in which heads of households could register each member in groups, a system particularly popular on university campuses, where universities block registered young people living in student halls.
The full introduction of the new system, called Individual Electoral Registration (IER), was supposed to be phased in by December of next year, so that voters had plenty of time to get back on the register if councils had dropped them because they could not match their names and addresses to tax or benefits records.
But this date was moved forward a full one year – and nearly 1m dropped off the register as a result. These 800,000 people were registered in the last general election but now must sign up again if they wish to vote on May 5.
Most of those comprising the ‘missing million’ are those who are already politically marginalised – young people, ethnic minorities, those living in private rented accommodation and the disabled.
But the good news about the new voter registration system is that you can sign up in just minutes online. All you’ll need to do is fill in your name, address, date of birth and a few other details. You will need your national insurance number. You can find this on your pay slip, or on official letters about benefits or tax credits.
Unite has officially endorsed Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, in the London mayoral election, as well as other Labour candidates standing elsewhere – we believe these are the best options to protect the interests of working people and those who’ve fallen through the cracks of poverty and inequality that this Tory government has created.
Jim Kennedy of Unite’s political department, explained why voting in the upcoming May 6 elections is so important.
“Local elections tend to get a lot less media coverage, and also tend to have much lower turnout than general elections,” he said.
“But these elections are just as vital, if not more. The next mayor of London will play an enormous role in doing something about the housing and transport problems that plague the capital. Local councillors will determine how, exactly, our local authorities – the level of government that’s closest our daily lives – is run.
“And as more decisions are devolved away from the central UK government, the elections in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland will have a very real impact on the people living in those nations.
“We urge everyone to not only register by Monday, April 18, but to also tell all their friends, family and work colleagues – democracy only works if as many people as possible participate.”
To find out more about the upcoming elections and what, precisely, is at stake, read our uniteWORKS election special here.