MP urges voters to register after electoral system changes
PUBLISHED: 17:00 19 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:27 20 October 2015
A CUT-OFF date for a new electoral system has been moved by 12 months by Weston’s MP, leading to concerns it could cause voters to become disenfranchised.
Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose is overseeing changes to the electoral registration system as part of his role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office.
The aim is to ensure every registered voter is alive and not fraudulent or a ‘ghost in the machine’.
The deadline has been moved from December 2016 to December this year, against a recommendation by the Electoral Commission.
Weston Liberal Democrat leader Mike Bell said it was going to lead to people being disenfranchised.
But Mr Penrose told the Mercury around 96 to 97 out of 100 people had already been transferred to the new system.
He said: “Of the remaining three or four, we are trying to make sure we get through the last ones and make sure they genuinely exist.
“People may have moved house, some people have died, and some may have been added fraudulently.
“This reduces that. It makes sure people are genuine voters rather than ghosts in the machine.”
Mr Penrose said the Government moved the cut-off date because Police and Crime Commissioner elections are taking place before the original deadline.
The Liberal Democrats say young people and private sector tenants are more likely to be affected.
Cllr Bell 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.
“As the responsible Minister, John Penrose is blatantly ignoring the independent electoral commission in pursuit of narrow party advantage.”
But Mr Penrose said people will be contacted up to nine times to ensure they are not missed off the register. He urged people to respond to any letters to ensure they are registered to vote.