THE BLOG

Are You One of the Missing Million?

02/12/2015 12:21 GMT | Updated 01/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Whether or not you're registered to vote probably isn't something you spend a lot of time worrying about. That's fair enough, it isn't always up there with life's great stresses. But today the Government is publishing its latest register of voters and, if you're not on it, that could be a problem for you.

Let's start with the personal. Even if you have no intention of turning up to vote in this year's local elections, you should make sure you're on the register. For one, it affects your credit rating. If you're not on the list then a credit check may report that you're ineligible for a loan or unreliable when trying to rent a new flat or take out a mortgage. Given that younger people - 'Generation Rent' - are more likely to have dropped off the register, that's a problem. And even more annoyingly, if you fail to add yourself then you could be fined up to £80.

But even if you don't care about your credit rating and can happily hand over the best part of a hundred quid, you should still make the effort. Why? Because the electoral register determines so much of our democracy. Research suggests that anywhere between 1 and 1.9 million voters will have dropped off the list that is published today. Why has this happened? Because the Government has sped up the implementation of changes to the registration system - against independent advice. The process should have taken until the end of 2016, but this has been ignored.

Individual Electoral Registration (IER) changes how you register to vote. In the past it was possible for your university or a member of your family to register you. Now, you must act and get registered yourself. If you move, you must register again. The problem with this is that many people don't even know this is going on.

The picture is even more worrying when you look at it area by area. In some places, as much as a quarter of the population may have disappeared from the register.

For example, in Hackney 23% of voters could today drop of the register. This is estimated to be 43,774 people in that London borough alone. In Birmingham, nearly 8% of the electorate could fall off totalling 56,645 people. Glasgow is set to lose 67,225 voters and in Cambridge 17% of its voters may slip off the register.

Not only does that mean a million voices lost from the conversation, it means that at the local and constituency level the electorate will look a lot less like the actual community. That's bad for democracy and ultimately terrible news for fairness.

Finally, it's this new register that will be used to draw up the boundaries for the next general election - meaning that the picture of Britain used to decide what constituency you live in will be fundamentally wrong and missing a million people.

At RegistHERtoVote we are campaigning to make it easier to register to vote. Some amazing work is being done around the country on this already. For example, at De Montfort University a joined up campaign between the student union, city council and the university has seen 97% of eligible students responding and an extra 2,774 students getting signed up.

We need more innovation like this, especially in areas where there is a high number of students or where high numbers of people have slipped of the register.

But ultimately, it is now all of our responsibility to make sure that we are on the register and to make sure that we have a voice. So today, as the latest list is published, ask yourself whether you are one of the missing million. And if you think you are, do yourself and democracy a favour, love your vote by visiting: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Martha Dalton is co-founder of the RegistHERtoVote campaign and a founding partner and Director of Lodestone Communications. For more information, visit www.registhertovote.org