Thursday, October 04, 2007

BBC talking of a million disenfranchised voters in an autumn general election

I think the BBC has misunderstood the situation with the register of electors.

The register is published in January each year, based on where people were living the previous October. However a rolling register has been in operation for several years now and new people can be added to the register at any time if they have moved house in the interim.

As a local councillor I get an update every month of people who have joined the register in my ward. Anyone who registered before August 10th 2007 will have been added to the register of electors on 3rd September.

Then there is a three month suspension while Electoral RegistrationOfficers carry out their annual checks. The next revision is then in December.

It is not yet two months since the temporary closing of the register.

Surely this mass hysteria about 1 million disenfranchised voters must be challenged, or am I missing something here?


Paula said...

I think its overblown too.. the main problem would seem to be people who have moved, and not realised they can register any time at their new address rather than wait for the forms to come round once a year. There will be some people affected by this but surely if they have moved locally they can simply go and vote at their old polling station. If they have moved a long way, there is still time to apply for a postal. The rolling register does need more publicity though as I suspect political parties will concentrate on registering people seen as "theirs" and the rest will be left not knowing about the possibilities.

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks Paula

Like you I dont want to underestimate the problem and pour cold water on people's concerns, but surely if they are mad keen to vote and worried about their franchise there are ways of making that happen.

And in a General Election, any vote cast anywhere in the country will contribute to the national result. Obviously people who have moved to or from marginal constituencies to "safer" ones may feel that their vote is going to count in a bigger or lesser way depending on where they were living and where they are now living. But that is hardly the problem of the elections staff, nor indeed likely to be the reason behind the move.

I think also that you are right to highlight the need to publicise the rolling register much more often. Most people only think about their vote twice a year - when they get their electoral confirmation form each summer/autumn and in the run up to an election.

It is probably only anoraks like us that make sure that we have been registered at our new address while we are notifing everyone else about our move.

I do think this hysteria has been ramped up, surprisingly by the Association of Elections Staff (or whatever they are called) but I really dont see why. Surely the solution ie publicity about the rolling register and about postal voting lies in their own hands?

I am glad I am not alone in this concern.

Harry Barnes said...

I don't know if you saw the following response which I posted last week just before I left home for a few days. I had attempted to respond via this comment box, but my efforts failed at that time -

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks Harry, that is helpful.

I didnt know you were the man behind the rolling register, well done, very perspicacious.

We now have a couple of years to get this sorted out. Let's talk to the Electoral Commission and the relevant minister, whoever that is, about promoting the rolling register in future. We could ask Housing Associations, the council, estate agents and solicitors to draw it to people's attention for a start.

Harry Barnes said...

Louise: I have responded to your contribution at my comment box. I hope to put some work into the issue in the future and push it. Thanks.