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With months until key elections, thousands have been purged from Britain's electoral register

The government ignored Electoral Commission advice to delay its voter registration system change, and thousands risk being denied a vote.

Elisabeth Pop
3 February 2016
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Image: classonline.org.uk

The equivalent of almost two parliamentary constituencies of voters have “disappeared” from London’s electoral register, two months after the government rushed through changes to the way we register to vote.

These figures are based on information that HOPE not hate has received from 10 out of London’s 33 electoral services.

According to this early data, nearly 130,000 people have dropped off the electoral register since November last year.

There are now also 30% fewer “attainers” (those under 18 but who will be old enough to vote in the next election) in the capital, compared to February 2014, and 20% fewer across the UK as a whole.

In addition, 1 in 5 people are now “missing” from Cambridge’s electoral register (compared with May 2015).

Predictions

These figures were revealed ahead of the Electoral Commission’s own report into the roll out of the new Individual Electoral Registration (IER) system.

The Commission had advised the government to wait a further year before the roll-out (which the Government refused).

This week, The Guardian revealed that an estimated 800,000 people had dropped off the electoral register as a whole.

As we predicted in our September 2015 report, Britain’s Missing Voters, the biggest drop-offs took place in large urban areas, often with multiple occupancy housing, regular home movers and a large number of historically under-registered groups (young people, ethnic minorities, poor people, etc).

Collectively, 127,111 people have dropped from the 10 London boroughs we spoke to – or, on average, a -6.42% decrease compared to May 2015 (and equivalent to almost two parliamentary constituencies of electors).

In autumn 2015, the Electoral Commission said 415,000 voters could potentially drop off the registers, on top of the 1.6 million who have a right to vote across London but are not already registered.

With one-third of the London electoral services having shared information with us so far, the actual loss of electors doesn’t seem too far off the predictions.

Outside London

Unsurprisingly, given our past research and voter registration (VR) focus, Cambridge seems the most affected city outside London, having lost almost 20% of its electorate compared to May 2015 (in September we predicted a 17% drop), followed by Brighton which now has a 8.33% smaller register and Southampton with has seen a 7.59% decrease.

Attainers

We wrote in our September 2015 report that one-third of 18-to-24 year olds were not registered to vote and that electoral registers in May 2015 were capturing almost 50% fewer attainers than before the 2014 elections.

Our data received so far reveals that, on average, there are 31% fewer attainers on the register in December 2015 than there were in February 2014.

But there are some further disturbing developments, with Bexley’s register seeing a decrease of 62% in attainers; Southwark 60%; and Tower Hamlets almost 52%. The only positive story was Brent which saw a 34% increase – a borough where we’ve worked very hard with the local electoral service and other organisations.

Outside London, attainers numbers continue to remain low: York has 74% fewer attainers on its register than in February 2014, followed by Portsmouth with a 55.4% decrease and Cardiff with a 46% decrease.

What next

HOPE not hate’s mission statement is to ‘Challenge Hate – Build Communities’. Ensuring that people have an opportunity to participate in the democratic process of this country is essential to the way we build communities and increase resilience against the pull of extremism.

With at least seven elections due to take place in 2016, we are more determined than ever to engage with the voiceless, across the UK, but with a particular focus on London.

And as always, make sure you, your family, friends and colleagues are registered to vote: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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