THE BLOG

Too Many People Are Not Registered to Vote - And It's About to Get Worse

17/07/2015 17:30 BST | Updated 17/07/2016 10:59 BST

Too many people are not registered to vote. The reasons for this vary - they don't have the time, they are disillusioned with party politics, they don't see how voting will make any difference to their lives. But the result is the same: they are not getting heard and the future of our country is being decided by an increasingly narrow section of society.

And it is about to get worse. This week, the government decided to bring forward by a year the end of the transition to Individual Electoral Registration, removing millions of people from the electoral register and ignoring the advice of the Electoral Commission.

This raises serious concerns for our democracy and is the latest in a long line of deeply partisan moves by a government intent on stifling democratic scrutiny and rigging the game in its favour.

The Electoral Commission has warned that 1.9million people could fall off the register if the transition deadline is brought forward.

We know what kinds of voters are more likely to be missing: they are private renters, members of the BAME communities, those who live in built up areas or towns with a high student population. Perhaps the greatest divide is between the older and younger generations: some 95% of the over-65s are on the electoral register, yet only around 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds are estimated to be registered.

The register is the beating heart of our democracy. The coming year will see a significant number of elections, which makes it even more important for the register to be as complete and accurate as possible.

But it also performs a wider function. It provides the foundation for the boundary review, which determines parliamentary constituency boundaries. The next review is due to start early in 2016 and the registers published in December 2015 will be used as its basis.

David Cameron has decided to push ahead with an arbitrary reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600, despite warnings that this could lead to constituencies that do not reflect local communities.

Now he is proposing to do so on the basis of a severely depleted register with missing voters concentrated in certain communities and parts of the country - a clear move by the Government to give the Tories an electoral advantage and one that would call into question the legitimacy of our democracy.

This of course has to be placed in the context of a government who after severely restricting access to justice and reducing the ability of charities to challenge government policy in the last Parliament, has, barely two months in the job, promised to limit Freedom of Information powers, scrap the Human Rights Act, create two-classes of MPs by the backdoor and only this week published a Bill to stifle legitimate rights to take industrial action.

David Cameron's Government may claim the one nation mantra but their politics are divisive and partisan. We will not stand by and allow millions to lose their voice.

Lord Falconer is Shadow Lord Chancellor and the shadow secretary of the state for justice