“Tories accused of ‘shameful abuse of power’ over electoral roll changes”

The London Evening Standard published this article today. Of course, we know all about this in East Devon, as our Electoral Returning Officer (EDDC CEO Mark Williams) “lost” around 6,000 local voters before the last elections in May 2015. Coincidentally, these were exactly the kind of voters referred to below – ” …young people, private sector tenants, ethnic minorities and those from more socially deprived communities — who traditionally are less likely to vote Conservative — are most likely to be affected.”

The full text of the article:

Tens of thousands of Londoners could disappear from the electoral roll and lose their right to vote in next year’s mayoral and London Assembly elections, it was claimed today.

Ministers were accused of a “shameful abuse of power” after they brought forwards changes to the electoral registration system which critics claim could undermine the democratic outcome of key elections in the capital.

The Liberal Democrats said that up to two million voters across the country could be effectively disenfranchised with Londoners particularly at risk since the capital has such a large and transient population. Young people, private sector tenants, ethnic minorities and those from more socially deprived communities — who traditionally are less likely to vote Conservative — are most likely to be affected.

The Government, however, has insisted it is focusing on cleaning up the register which under the old system included many “ghost” voters who should no longer be included.

Lib-Dem MP Tom Brake, who has tabled a rejection motion in the House of Commons, said: “This is clearly going to lead to a very large number of people being disenfranchised and it’s very hard not to believe that there’s some political motivation behind it because the people most likely to be affected are probably not Conservative supporters.”

Lib-Dem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon added: “The Government is blatantly ignoring the independent electoral commission in pursuit of narrow party advantage. It is a shameful abuse of power.

“Removing nearly two million UK voters will leave gaping holes in the electoral register, especially in many parts of London. It will undermine the democratic outcome of next year’s Mayor and London Assembly elections.”

The Government brought forward the new system by a year to December 2015, even though the electoral commission advised ministers to spend another year transferring voters on the old household-based register to the new individual register.

Critics have warned that as the cleaned-up register will form the basis of the boundary review of parliamentary seats due to begin next year it will also result in fewer inner-city seats, which would favour the Conservatives.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The transition to Individual Electoral Registration has been a huge success. Now we need to remove up to two million entries on the electoral registers which are inaccurate or out of date.”

In a letter to The Guardian, Cabinet Office minister John Penrose said: “It is absolutely untrue that anyone will accidentally find themselves unable to vote because of the change to individual electoral registration. Completing the transition this December will mean that all boundaries are based on the most accurate registers.”

“I’m afraid that people who oppose this will make the voting registers less accurate, and elections less fair with higher risk of fraud. People will conclude that they’re trying try to hang on to the existing system simply because it gives them an inbuilt party-political advantage, and that they’re putting this ahead of what’s right and fair.”