Regarding ‘Southend exposes ease of electoral fraud’

So, Terry Davis has proved he can break the law; let’s hope that the CPS can prove they can prosecute. He has not proved that he could cast five votes.

Our democracy has safeguards, but it also relies to some extent upon the integrity and honesty of us all. I am not sure what Mr Davis’s law-breaking achieves, other than fifteen minutes of infamy for him.

The electoral registration system is not perfect, but neither is it like “a third world country” as Mr Davis claims.

I have knocked on thousands of doors, using the electoral registration system whilst doing so – my canvassing relies on the electoral roll. I have very solid experience of what registration is like, and where the weaknesses are.

I have seen mistakes; people registered twice and children included. I might add that, contrary to Mr Davis’s assertion about foreign-sounding names, that in every case these errors were made in the so-called indigenous population.

What I have found is significant numbers of unregistered people. Over-registration is not an issue in this corner of Essex, quite the contrary, and Government plans for Individual Voter Registration will only exacerbate this.

I do not know Mr Davis’s motives for his flagrant law-breaking, but I see scaremongering features. His decision to flout electoral law is not something I have witnessed in anyone else. Rather than questioning the integrity of the electoral registration system Mr Davis should take a long hard look in the mirror.

Voter registration: if you really don’t care how your money is spent can you send me your bank details?

Southend Borough Council is starting its annual voter registration drive. This registration will enable each adult to not only vote in local council elections; General Elections, European elections, Police Commissioner elections, referendums, etc are also included when the right to vote is applied for. Missing out on your vote means that your voice will not be heard – and I would encourage all, regardless of how they intend to use their vote, to register.

Even abstention is only recorded by registering as turnout is recorded as a proportion of those registered; the unregistered do not count. You cannot even spoil your ballot paper without first having registered.

Voter registration affects others things too. Credit is harder to come by, identity harder to prove, and jury selection is based on the Electoral Register.

All votes are equal, each voter’s voice equally loud. The only silent ones are the non-voters. Voting affects almost everything we do, and for young people this is especially important as they have to live with the consequences for longer than the rest of us.

Perhaps the most important aspect is that every bit of tax you pay is spent by politicians. Not directly, of course, but as a result of decisions they have taken. The fact that you are paying tax (and everyone pays tax, indirectly if not directly) at all is down to politicians. These politicians are there because of votes.

This is your money (and mine) – our money. If for no better reason then register to vote so as to have a say in how your money is spent.

And if you really do not care how your money is spent can you send me your bank details?

The earnestness of being important

Jack Monroe has tackled the issue of voter apathy on her blog here. She sets out eloquently why abstention should not be an option, and I would like to add to her thoughts.

She begins with the issue of voter registration, mandatory at present but rarely enforced. The Government is moving us away from household registration to IER (individual electoral registration) as a means to combat voter fraud. I am unconvinced that IER will stop fraud, and I am convinced IER will see under-registration grow. Figures vary as to how many are not registered at present, but my experience suggests that in some areas it is approaching chronic. Aside from the issues affecting credit ratings and identity, under-registration undermines our legal system.

Juries are made up of twelve people, peers of those under examination. These twelve are drawn from the electoral role, and drawn randomly. The concept of ‘peers’ is important here; we are entitled to be judged by people like us, not experts or Government placemen. If the electoral register is missing a significant number of our peers then the integrity of this system is questioned. A cross-section of society ceases to be a cross-section if an underclass is excluded.

Also turnout, which is bandied about as a means of legitimising the winners in any election, is judged by counting those who vote and calculating this as a percentage of those registered. Shock was expressed in 2001 when the General Election turnout dipped to just below 60%. This did not factor in those who were not registered. It could have been under 50% had these been counted. Abstention is unrecognised if the abstainer does not register.

Voting is important. Those of us who thought Thatcher’s interpretation of society was woefully wide of the mark believe that society is as much about engagement as anything. We have the right to vote, I think we have a responsibility to vote as well. I would encourage all to vote – yes even those who would vote against me and my colleagues.

It is almost as if the cannot-be-bothered see the act of sitting on their hands on polling day as a way of distancing themselves from the result. I would not let them off so lightly. When we get repressive governments and councils this is as much a fault of the apathetic as it is of those who cast the crosses for repression.

By voting the voter recognises that compromises have to be made. Almost every vote is a compromise – which two people agree on everything? Compromise shows unselfishness. This in itself embraces the concept of society as the sum of us all, a giant step towards socialism. Sacrificing some of your own wants for a greater good makes the world a better place.

So, for a better world – vote!

More on optional voter registration

I have written before on Individual Electoral Registration, and may be re-treading some old ground here, but it is such import to the viability and integrity of our democracy that I feel moved to write again. Doubtless I will return to this topic in future.

One aspect proposed for the new means of registering to vote is the optional nature of it. Currently it is mandatory to register, and fines can be levied for failure. This is irrespective of any intention to vote.

It is estimated in some quarters that up three and a half million people eligible to vote fail to register; this under the current compulsory regime. It is not difficult to imagine this figure growing should registration become optional.

Abstainers are reflected in voting figures as a feature of turnout. Whilst it could be argued that abstainers are ignored, many politicians see this as a failure by themselves to enthuse those who could vote but do not. This feeds back into policy as these politicians try to address voter apathy and antipathy.

Turnout is also used in arguments over legitimacy, and is used when discussing the attributes of the various voting systems. I am a reformer, and I believe that much apathy is down to the failure of our electoral system to make many votes seem worthwhile (I do appreciate that this is a minority view at the moment). It is an irony that whilst campaigning against reform, many on the right voiced anger over a system that gave Labour a 66 seat majority in 2005 whilst only attracting 36% of the popular vote.

Regardless of where they stand on reform, people from both sides of the political divide will from time to time use figures on turnout and support to bolster arguments. When registration falls only to those who can be bothered such numbers lose much of their meaning.

Anyway, read on here Completeness and accuracy of the register.

Castle Point’s decline – exodus or ghostbusting?

    Ward Electorates    
  2010 2011 change + / – % change
CanveyIslandWinter Gardens 4,973 4,570 – 403 8.1
Canvey Island North 5,259 4,962 – 297 5.6
Canvey Island West 3,592 3,394 – 198 5.5
Canvey Island South 4,967 4,701 – 266 5.4
CanveyIslandCentral 4,886 4,636 – 250 5.1
Canvey Island East 4,862 4,587 – 226 4.6
St Mary’s 4,858 4,635 – 223 4.6
Victoria 4,565 4,365 – 200 4.4
Cedar Hall 4,594 4,407 – 187 4.1
St George’s 4,604 4,416 – 188 4.1
St Peter’s 4,998 4,812 – 186 3.7
St James 5,246 5,056 – 190 3.6
Appleton 5,154 5,018 – 136 2.6
Boyce 5,131 5,003 – 128 2.5

I was tempted to tease the new Castle Point MP by stating that the election of Rebecca Harris has resulted in significant flight from that borough and constituency.

Something curious has happened here. It may be that there has been a new method introduced for registering, or recording the registration, of electors. It may be that the census has had an impact. It may be that the checking of registrations has become stricter. It could be that people have left or died and not been replaced. Whatever, it is curious.

The loss of 3127 voters is significant when you consider that this was greater than the majorities in 1997 and 2001.

Now if I was into conspiracy theories I could hypothesise about phantom voters and the like. I am not.

Individual voter registration is likely to be introduced during this Parliament. I expect drops of this size and greater to be a regular feature across the country immediately following its introduction. Think what you like about this proposal, but that it will have an impact is almost a certainty.

With the commitment to regular boundary reviews as part of the equalisation agenda expect regular change and confusion.