15,000 Southwark ‘dropped off’ voting register with five weeks before mayoral election

News Desk (31 March, 2016) Politics

Council and campaigners urge borough's young people to check they are registered before April 18 deadline

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OVER 15,000 Southwark residents are believed to have dropped off the voting register since May 2015 as a result of government reforms.

Data collected by campaign group Hope not Hate, working with Ben and Jerry’s, projects a seven-point-one-six per cent reduction in the number of people in the borough registered to vote.

They anticipate the number will be 182,281 by May this year compared to a previous total of 197,577 last May.

Southwark Council is now urging residents to make sure they register in their own right by the April 18 deadline, before the London mayoral and London Assembly elections on May 5.

The council’s monitoring officer, Duncan Whitfield, said: “The council has pulled out all the stops to spread the word that the system has changed and people need to actively register if they want to vote in forthcoming elections.

“However, people are hearing our message and going online to register and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t registered yet to take 5 minutes to go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and apply to register today.”

The government’s changes to the electoral register saw people eligible to vote now have to register as individuals, rather than by counting people per household.

Hope Not Hate have said their findings show that young people are increasingly feeling left out of the political system. They say students are particularly likely to drop off the voting register as they move between different addresses during the year.

Their survey also shows that 40 per cent of the young Londoners they surveyed felt they “hadn’t been made aware” of the upcoming mayoral election, and that a similar number felt there is a “lack of information” alerting them to register.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope not hate, said: “We’ve seen that democracy is currently not reaching young people, and we’re in danger of having a lost generation due to voter registration changes.

“We hope our campaign will help more Londoners have their voices heard in the London mayoral election.”

Duncan Whitfield added: “Voter numbers often peak around a General Election, as we saw last year, so some drop-off is inevitable as people move out of the borough, especially in an area with a high turnover of residents like Southwark.”

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