Last week Jeremy Corbyn and I attended a voter registration event at Leeds University to support the Missing Million campaign.
Nationally, about one million people are at risk of being taken off the register in December if the Government go ahead with their plans to end the transition period to individual electoral registration a year earlier than previously proposed. In Leeds there are 40,000 properties with no-one registered and of those over 16,000 are in Leeds Central alone. It is also alarming that certain groups of voters – students, those living in private rented accommodation and those in sheltered housing – may be particularly likely to be disenfranchised by this timetable.
Electoral registration is a vital component of our democracy and it is essential that the public have confidence in the accuracy of the electoral register. It is also important that the register is as inclusive as possible so that everybody who is eligible to vote can have the opportunity to participate in elections.
I support the phased introduction of IER as I believe it can, if properly implemented, reduce electoral fraud and modernise how we carry out elections.
I am very concerned at the reckless way this Government and the previous Coalition Government have gone about introducing IER. Both Governments have ignored repeated warnings that stripping out safeguards and speeding up the process of IER will risk millions of registered voters being disenfranchised.
The Government now urgently needs to ensure that the move to IER does not leave millions unregistered or lead to constituencies that fail to take into account the people who live in them. That is why I support the block registration by universities and care homes. I would also be open to considering the idea of an automatic system of registration.
I hope the Government listen to these extremely serious concerns and the advice of the independent Electoral Commission, who have recently recommended that the transition period to IER should continue until December 2016.
We have to make sure that people do not lose their right to vote because having a vote means that we have a voice.
Registering is easy: go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
MP for Leeds Central