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We must act now to protect people's right to have a vote

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08 Oct 2015
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Tory changes to registration could mean a million people won’t be able to vote

It only takes 3 minutes to vote online at gov.uk/register-to-vote as long as you have your National Insurance number to hand. Go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The Government plans to bring forward by 12 months the full implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) - to the 1 December 2015. Effectively this will mean the biggest disenfranchisement in our history. It will also have a big knock-on effect on changes to parliamentary boundaries which the Tories will make next year. It’s estimated that a million people could lose their ability to vote in council and government elections in the next year.

From 2013 the Tories have been bringing in staged changes to the way people register to vote - and there’s clear evidence that their plan to bring forward the last stage of these changes a year earlier than planned will mean many people will get left out and lose their vote. It’s young people, students, people who tend to move around more and people in private rented accommodation who are most likely to lose their vote.

It’s ironic that 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta as well as the opening of a new film about the suffragettes’ fight to get votes extended to women. In contrast, we are seeing this year a cynical and shameful reduction in democracy deliberately brought in by the Tories. Over the summer the government decided to bring forward by a year the deadline for registration, against advice from its own election watchdog.

The independent Electoral Commission has predicted that up to 1.9 million people as a result and the Electoral Reform Society has called the decision a “travesty for democracy”.   In May 2016 we’ll be elected 51 councillors to Stroud District Council and we are likely to have a referendum on the European Union soon - it’s important that we all have the chance to have our say.

We have a Labour-led Stroud District Council, which is working hard to increase the number of people registered to vote, but the council is having to spend more time and money on trying to get as many people registered as possible. At the moment there are 10,000 households who have not responded to the forms that were sent out and council officers will be going out to all areas to try and push up the number of people who have registered to vote. Although the government had made a grant towards the cost of introducing the new registration system, the council has already spent almost twice as much on it this financial year. The Government expects councils to fund the rest of the switch to the new system from their own existing budgets - which are being cut by the government.

The Tories are intending to change parliamentary boundaries next year - based on the new inaccurate voting registers. Inner-city areas are likely to see the largest fall in voter numbers - so they will end up being represented by fewer MPs as a result.

Don’t think that registering to vote just gives you the right to vote - if someone is not on the register they could find themselves unable to get credit, a passport or a mobile phone contract, so it could cause real problems to many people.

It only takes 3 minutes to vote online at gov.uk/register-to-vote as long as you have your National Insurance number to hand. Go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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