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Concern over electoral roll ‘revolution’ in Southampton
A VOTING ‘revolution’ will go ahead next year – despite evidence that up to 30 per cent of Southampton residents could drop off electoral rolls.
A watchdog has given the go-ahead to a switch to requiring every voter to register individually – rather than by household – to tackle electoral fraud.
The Electoral Commission declared a trial to be a success, after it automatically transferred 78 per cent of voters by “matching” their names to a Government database.
But the ‘dry run’ was less successful in Southampton, where only 70.7 per cent of voters will be registered from next year, without further action.
That is less than in other parts of Hampshire – where as many as 84.4 per cent of voters will be automatically transferred.
Labour called for the brakes to be slammed on the switch, to avoid a repeat of the Northern Ireland experience, where many voters dropped off the register.
Stephen Twigg, the party’s constitutional reform minister, said: “The Government’s plans for individual electoral registration play fast and loose by speeding up the process. “It is crucial the Government responds to the concerns raised by the Electoral Commission, because failure to do so could see millions of eligible voters dropping off.”
Labour has long protested that poorer voters, and those from ethnic minorities, are more likely to “disappear” than wealthier residents.
But Greg Clark, the Conservative constitution minister, vowed to plough ahead and will soon announce extra cash for town halls to implement the switch.
He said: “By embracing modern technology, we can transformthe way people register to vote to make the whole process smooth and painless.”
Ministers are confident the “missing voters” can be found by making registration “quick and easy”, allowing it to be done online.
Up to a further six per cent of voters are expected to be added by ‘matching’ against council tax, housing benefit and library databases.
And wards with low registration rates have been given a “red light” – allowing local councils to target them by canvassing for voters.
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