Government planning individual voter registration

Shocked MPs told electoral plan could remove 10m voters | Politics | The Guardian

The Government is planning to introduce voluntary individual registration for coming elections alongside massive changes to electoral boundaries, to replace the current system of household registration in which it is mandatory to co-operate with electoral registration officers (EROs) and supply accurate information. Samira Shackle covers the story on the New Statesman’s website (the Guardian, above, is the only newspaper to cover it), and both note that it is likely to disenfranchise poorer voters who are already more likely to be politically disengaged already, and thus benefit the Conservatives (or perhaps the Liberal Democrats) who receive more votes from better-off voters.

That will also lead to boundary changes further down the line which will make inner-city constituencies bigger, as they have fewer registered voters despite a high population. It is noted that in the USA, Republicans already have a record of frustrating efforts to increase voter registration: Mother Jones published a list of eleven types of anti-voting trickery used in the USA, most of them favouring the Republicans by preventing or discouraging poorer people and minorities from voting. Although Labour has been implicated in vote manipulation in the recent past (by using postal votes to make sure younger Asian Muslims vote Labour rather than for any anti-war candidate, or rather, making sure their parents or community elders vote Labour for them), it speaks volumes that a measure highly likely to reduce poorer people’s involvement in the political process is coming from the party which represents the wealthy here.

However, this is not the only reason why political interference in the voting arrangements should be resisted. An essential part of maintaining a parliamentary democracy is that all sides trust each other to behave honourably, conduct elections fairly and respect their results, and the whole legitimacy of government is undermined if it is perceived to have stolen an election. At best, you can get widespread tax refusals or evasion and petty corruption and disorder; at worst, you can end up with a civil war on your hands, as when a president refuses to leave office (e.g. Laurent Gbagbo). This is why it is essential for anyone who seeks to maintain a democracy to resist the temptation to use whatever political power they have to influence the electoral system to their future advantage, because they could end up governing an ungovernable country.

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