Latest Public Sector News

19.05.14

Millions missed off voter lists due to ‘lackadaisical’ councils – MP

Ahead of this week’s local and European parliamentary elections, a Labour MP has demanded that at least one local authority should be prosecuted for not visiting voters’ homes when updating the electoral register. 

Council officials are meant to go door-to-door to make sure the lists are accurate, but Chris Ruane, MP for Vale of Clwyd, has stated that millions of people have been missed due to the “lackadaisical” attitude taken by some councils. 

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, stated that councils up and down the country work tirelessly to make sure residents are registered to vote. It also noted that last year more than 80,000 voters registered in the weeks leading up to the local elections. 

Over the course of the last six years, however, it has been revealed that 90 council officials have failed in at least one year to meet the Electoral Commission's standards for door-to-door canvassing. 

In 2013, for instance, five councils – Mid Devon, Torridge, West Devon, West Somerset and Taunton Deane – failed to meet the standard by carrying out insufficient door-to-door visits. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ruane, who sits on the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in the House of Commons, said: “At least one of the authorities that have failed for three or four times to go door knocking... should be prosecuted as a test to others. 

“As a result of this lackadaisical attitude towards door knocking, which is pivotal to getting people on the register, six million people have disappeared off the electoral register.” 

From this summer, though, voters in England and Wales will be able to register online – a move away from the system of registering voters by household. The government hopes this change will help cut down fraud and encourage more people to register as the power is in their hands, but critics believe it will have the opposite effect on registration figures. 

A spokesman for the LGA stated that the Electoral Commission has recognised the huge progress councils have made in preparing for the most significant change to voter registration in a century. 

“Councils will continue to focus on the change to Individual Voter Registration in preparation and all councils will want to ensure their residents can take part in making decisions about their local area,” the spokesman added. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Julian Ware-Lane   19/05/2014 at 12:26

The ward I represent (Milton, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council) has very many unregistered. I am handing out voter registration forms at almost every canvassing session and I am not particularly looking for the unregistered. It is especially bad, in my experience, amongst new migrants, the young, and those in HMOs. It is also noticeable that you do not see the wealthy or comfortably off unregistered.

Smith   20/05/2014 at 08:07

The main reason people do not register to vote is not that they don't receive forms and support to do so... it is because they do not want to vote. That is down to councillors, MPs, MEPs and other elected officials. In our area, every household is given at least 3 opportunities to register in addition to a visit - but still a proportion choose not to do so.

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