Thursday, 10 September 2015

The early implementation of IER needs to be countered-and fast!

Readers, you may have come across articles about the fact the Conservatives are bringing forward the implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) by one year to December 2015 (due to amendment by John Penrose, the Conservative MP for Weston-Super-Mare) against the recommendations of the Electoral Commission to keep the deadline to December 2016. This could mean that upwards of 2,000,000 voters could be wiped off the national electoral register, which is already seriously incomplete in parts of Britain (there are an estimated 8,000,000 voters in the UK currently missing from electoral registers, according to Hope Not Hate).

Worse still, the effects of this will be exacerbated in areas with young and transient voters like Hackney, and large student electorates like Cambridge-the exact areas where the Green Party performs well. Many voters who move around often (either because they are students or private renters) tend to be young but also aware, and they were particularly inclined to vote Green in recent elections. London in particular, where we have been performing strongly, will end up losing many thousands of voters, which will adversely affect its representation in Parliament because these new registers will be used as the basis for boundary changes (and keep in mind the legislation requiring a reduction in seats from 650 to 600 is still in place!). Meanwhile, local authorities in rural and affluent semi-urban areas (into which Weston-Super-Mare can be categorised into), which are generally more inclined to elect Conservative MPs and have higher proportions of older voters and owner-occupiers, are overall predicted to lose far fewer voters from their register (sometimes less than 1%).
Quite a few areas containing generally marginal constituencies will also be affected, such as Crawley, Southampton, Amber Valley, Northampton, and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

However, this can be countered within the next 10 weeks-a rejection order has been already been moved in both Houses of Parliament to strike out Mr Penrose's amendment so that councils will have more time to register missing voters, given that 3 months is not nearly enough time to register millions of missing voters across the UK. Students' unions and universities also need to get involved in pushing forward voter registration drives amongst students even though the next elections will not be for another eight months-but there will be long-lasting consequences from the boundary changes that will be based on these new registers. There are also other useful benefits in registering to vote-it is easier to get credit or a mortgage if you are registered to vote.


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