IER – the eulogy from SBC, and my worries

There was a recent Southend-on-Sea Borough Council press release that caught my eye, this was one pertaining to changes to electoral registration.

Now I know that it is the press department’s job to eulogise every awful diktat from central Government, but this one really took the biscuit.

They write:

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Electoral Registration Team will write to every household in the Borough explaining that a new, more secure, system of Individual Electoral Registration is being introduced to replace the old Victorian system where the “head of household” registered everyone living in a property. Now, each individual will be responsible for registering themselves.

This seemingly innocuous statement covers a multitude of sins. Firstly, the ‘more secure’ bit is decidedly arguable. Individual electoral registration is being brought in to stop phantom voters being registered, which is definitely not an issue in Milton ward. Quite how individual registration will stop anyone registering phantom voters is not explained, because all you will get is multiple forms instead of just the one per household. I want voter fraud tackled, but not if this means millions suddenly disappear from electoral registers, which is what is predicted.

What is virtually certain is that this change will damage our democracy. It will do this because under-registration, already endemic in many town and city centres, is likely to rise. Less people registering to vote is not a good thing. I already hand out many voter registration forms as it is because under-registration is already a big issue in parts of the ward I represent.

What really got me about the announcement was their description of the old registration system as ‘Victorian’. OK, in of itself that may have some accuracy, but compared to how other parts of our democracy work it is positively modern.

You cannot vote for the Head of State or for anyone in the House of Lords. We have a voting system that is positively Queen Anne in the way it works, and the way we vote and how it is counted (polling stations, ballot papers, and pencils) is hardly utilising cutting edge technology.

I do not trust the Conservatives when they start tinkering with the way our democracy operates. They have a track record of impeding any progressive change and only seem interested in manipulating the system to their benefit. Under-registration is largely seen in urban areas – and these are often Labour areas.

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