The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee are examining proposals on the “Individual Electoral Registration and Electoral Administration”. These proposals make reference to independent academic research showing that the Government’s plans are likely to reduce the number of citizens on the electoral register by about 10 per cent. This is not an insignificant number considering the scale of voter apathy which already exists and the need to enhance the democratic process and governments’ mandate to rule through greater voter participation.
This impact was found inIreland as the result of changes to the system of registration to vote brought about by the Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. If these results were mirrored inLondon on the same scale, then in my home borough alone, 15,000 City of Westminster residents could be wiped off the electoral register by these new Conservative and Liberal Democrat proposals.
The proposals require voters to register individually from 2014 and to provide personal information about their date of birth or National Insurance number before registering to vote. Currently the 150,000 voters registered in the City of Westminsterare simply required to register on a household basis by giving their name and address to their local authority. The current system of registration is not only simple, it is also a legal requirement which assigns to it a level of importance much higher then something which households may otherwise treat as just another bit of paperwork which they could do without. The Government’s new proposals would make electoral registration voluntary thus removing the “urgency” to register.
So while all the focus is on the redrawing of the constituency boundaries which ultimately impacts upon MPs, it is the proposals relating to voter registration which have a direct affect on the electorate and arguably much more integral to the democratic process. In other words the boundaries are being redrawn with the stated aim to increase the average size of constituencies, these measures will bring the average size of parliamentary seat down by anything up to 10 per cent. Clearly acting against the stated purpose of the parliamentary boundary changes.