‘Prioritise electoral registration’ says John Denham

Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, John Denham, is urging people to register to vote in Southampton.

A report from the Electoral Commission has predicted that over 6 million eligible people are missing from the voter register.  The Government are currently proposing to speed up the timetable of registering voters in addition to removing the safeguards to monitor the impact of the overall registration.  This could lead to many more people being left of the register and unable to vote.

The report finds that on the whole urban areas, such as Southampton, have lower levels of registration.  There are particularly low levels of registration:

  • among the BME community,
  • by young people aged 17-24 years,
  • those living in a property under two years and
  • by those who live in properties owned by a private landlord.

Southampton has a large number of people living in privately-rented properties, which in 2001 accounted for approximately 19%.  This figure is thought to have grown significantly in the last decade.

At a time when the Tory-led Government are storming ahead with equalising constituency sizes, now is not the time to blocking more people from voting and deteriorating the accuracy of the electoral register.

Mr Denham has written to Southampton’s Electoral Registration Officer to clarify a number of issues on the way in which electoral registration is carried out in our city.

Mr Denham said:

“I have always encouraged areas of low registration to ensure they get on the register, through campaigns, leaflets and letters.  Nonetheless the issue remains a problem and it’s important as many people as possible are elligble to vote in elections.  Next May we will have the most important set of local elections in Southampton for a few years, with a real chance of a change in administration at the City Council.

“The report suggests that up to 10 million people could drop off the electoral register, so why is the Tory-led Government prioritising boundary changes when surely it’s more important to get people on the electoral register?  After all, voting is what democracy is about”

Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, commenting on the report by the Electoral Commission into the quality of electoral registers, said:

“The revelation that nearly six million eligible electors are missing from the voter register, and excluded from all the rights and duties that flow from it, is a disaster for British democracy.

“During the progress of the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill, the Tory-led Government refused to recognise that an electoral register with millions missing from it was not the most appropriate basis for redrawing constituency boundaries. This report highlights that the scale of the problem is far greater than we envisaged at the time, and draws into doubt still further the legitimacy of those new boundaries.

“This report is a timely reminder of the need to work to increase electoral registration levels. It also highlights the fact that the Government’s flawed proposals for introducing individual electoral registration must include adequate checks and balances to mitigate against a sharp fall in the numbers registered to vote.”

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