Individual voter registration will replace the current system in time for the general election in 2015, according to a government minister.
It will replace the current system in which households are asked to declare the identities of everyone living there who is qualified to vote.
Instead, it will be up to the individual elector to ensure that his or her name remains on the electoral register.
The Electoral Commission has welcomed the announcement, claiming that the measure will cut fraud and “lead to a more secure electoral register” – but Labour has raised concerns that some voters will be left out.
This is a genuine fear – that pressure of other commitments will push electoral registration out of mind. Most working people, along with the unemployed, are confronted with a multitude of matters that fight for their attention every day; registering for an event that won’t take place for several months is likely to slip their minds. There is also the threat of creeping apathy; the feeling that voting won’t change anything, that has been carefully promoted by right-wing propaganda and agents-provocateurs in the social media.
There is a very deep concern that this is exactly why Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are bringing in the new system.
Tory voters are well-regimented. They will make sure they stay on the register, and they will vote according to their instructions, on a regular basis. It is a gross generalisation, but they are generally less stressed than other voters, with fewer commitments. Liberal Democrats could face electoral annihilation in 2015, so this will add urgency to their attitude.
Labour voters – supporting the main opposition to the two Coalition parties – are often less committed to the process. It can be hard to motivate them to come out and vote, and individual voter registration adds a new layer to this difficulty.
It seems likely that people who have not registered under the new system will still be able to cast a ballot in the 2015 general election, under transitional arrangements – but the Shadow minister for constitutional reform, Stephen Twigg, has warned that 8.7 million voters are “on course” to fall off the register because of the way the government is rushing the change through.
Here at Vox Political, we believe that everyone in the UK should continue to enjoy – and exercise – the right to vote. In fact, ever since universal suffrage was introduced (as recently as the 20th century), it should be the duty of the government to ensure that this happens. Nobody should be turned away from a polling station.
This measure does not ensure that – in fact it makes such a situation less likely. That is why this blog will endeavour to ensure that all our readers are made aware of when the arrangement changes and what they need to do – and we will issue reminders, to ensure that you do not lose the right that your forebears suffered and died to win for you.
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