On 19 November 2015, local authorities will close their electoral registers so 16 November 2015 is the last day to register online. It is easy to register to vote. It takes less than 5 minutes but you’ll need your national insurance number. You can find out more and register by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
The Conservative government is in a rush to change the constituency boundaries. It wants to ensure that the 2020 general election is fought over 600 seats, fifty fewer than the present allocation.
To achieve this, the government plans to use the electoral roll as it stands on 1 December 2015. The numbers on the roll will determine the size and shape of voters’ constituencies.
But millions of people are not on the electoral roll. This means that we are in danger of an electoral map of the UK that does not represent the people who live here.
We need to stop this. The best way to do so is to register to vote.
Why are millions missing?
Last year, the UK moved from the old household survey method of electoral registration to a new method of individual registration.
More time is needed to make Individual Electoral Registration (IER) work because millions of people are dropping off the electoral register.
Some 10 million citizens may not be counted when the government redraws constituency boundaries from April 2016.
Efforts to continue to find the missing millions were meant to carry on until 2016. However, on 16 July 16 2015, just before summer recess, the government moved the date forward to 1 December 2015.
Stop the rush, democracy is at risk
Because of the hurried changes and because millions could lose their vote, the government has been advised to slow down and get this right.
The Electoral Commission said than an additional year was needed to allow the new system of IER to function.
The government rejected this advice and is pressing on with its plans to close the voter roll in December 2015, one year earlier than originally planned, and move to redraw the boundaries on that basis.
From December 2015, those people that local authorities have not been able to match with tax or benefit records and who have not re-registered and provided a National Insurance number will be taken off the electoral register.
The missing millions matter
The new register will form the basis of the parliamentary constituency boundary review that the Conservative government wants in place before the 2020 election. Reducing the number of seats and redrawing the boundaries both favour the Conservatives.
The registers with the largest predicted drop off tend to be in large urban areas with a high incidence of multiple occupancy housing, regular home movers and large numbers of historically low propensity registering voters.
The 2016 boundary review will mean:
- 31 constituencies could go in England
- 7 in Scotland
- 10 in Wales; and
- 2 in Northern Ireland
The danger is that the UK will end up with a distorted electoral map in which urban areas and low propensity voters are under-represented.
According to IPSOS Mori, if the proposed boundary changes go ahead, Labour will need to ensure it has at least a 13 per cent lead over the Conservatives to stand any chance of winning the election (October 2015).
Make sure you don’t lose out
It is estimated that there are around 10 million eligible voters not on the electoral register.
Dismantling constituencies on the basis of a voter roll that is not reflective of the real constituency population is a danger to democracy.
- 23% of Hackney voters could drop off the electoral register in December
- Birmingham could lose 7.7% of its electorate
- Glasgow loses 67,225 voters, Birmingham loses 56,645
- Cambridge loses 17% of its electors and that’s before an expected heavy drop off of students in the new college year
- Six of the eight biggest drop-offs are in London, which overall loses as many as 415,013
- London loses up to 6.9% of its voters while the South West only loses 2.8%, East of England 2.9% and the South East 3.5%.
- Scotland is the next worst affected region, losing 5.5% of its voters.
The Boundary Commission is scheduled to start work on redrawing the constituency map of the UK, down from 650 to 600 seats, in April 2016. Under their rules, seats will be reallocated away from areas with high numbers of unverified voters who are typically young people, renters, certain ethnic minorities and students.
The situation is particularly bleak for young voters. Students now have to register individually. Electoral Commission data shows that the number of voters aged 17 dropped significantly with the introduction of IER in 2014.
And the missing voters are not evenly distributed across the country – there are in the region of 120 local authorities that will see a fall in the number of registered voters in excess of the average of 4%.
It’s not – if you are part of this Conservative government because it makes it harder for Labour to win in 2020. If the Boundary Review goes ahead as planned, the House of Commons will have fewer MPs than at any point since 1800. It is estimated that of the 50 cancelled constituencies, more than 30 are Labour held and of the remaining 600 seats, many will become much harder for Labour to win. In the US, this is known as gerrymandering. It doesn’t matter whether you think that you’re already registered – make sure by doing it again online before Monday! And make sure that your friends, family and 16/17y olds register as well.