Too Poor To Vote.

Much concern has rightly been expressed over the estate of the economy.
Much anger has been expressed about how 99% of the world owns less than 1% who are hogging all the monetary wealth.
Much disgust has been expressed at self serving elected politicians In Westminster lining their own nests,and now demanding more benefits again.
Meanwhile Bankers and Company Executives are grabbing even more ridiculous bonuses for messing things completely up.

But something grabbed my attention today, and it was nothing to do with Euro crisis or any political argument. It was something which is quite frightening, and disturbing,which has been happening under our noses, yet nobody has uttered a single word.

A set of statistics came out from the UK Electoral Commission today, and they are alarming to say the least.
I will set out some of these dry statistics for you, and then examine them more closely.

the number of unregistered people in Great Britain has risen from approximately 3.9 million in December 2000 to at least 8.5 million in April 2011, up from approximately 6 million in December 2010.
That is an Increase of 4.6 million people unentitled to vote in a 10 year period.
More than doubling the Disenfranchised in a decade!

The lowest percentage of completeness is recorded for the 17–18 and 19–24 age groups (55% and 56% complete respectively). In contrast, 94% of the 65+ age group were registered.

With regards to what we know of voting intentions, this is a major concern for those who are canvassing for Scottish Independence!
The vast majority of support for Independence being in the younger age group and those least likely to support Independence in the 65+ age group.

there is a clear relationship between levels of accuracy and
completeness and housing tenure. For example, completeness ranged
from 89% among those who own their property outright and 87% among
those with a mortgage, to 56% among those who rent from a private
landlord. In relation to accuracy, the rate of ineligible entries at privately rented properties was four times that found at owner occupied addresses

Again with regards to these UK figures, if we assume similar proportions In Scotland… Around 90% of those with property are registered to vote, while those who privately rent only 56% registered.
Again with relation to voting Intentions on Independence, it has been noted that the vast number of poorer people are likely to vote for Independence, while the richest top sector of society are less likely to vote favourably.
Bear in mind also that most of the youngest age group of not registered would also be more likely to be in private rented accommodation.

The Electoral Commission have raised a number of concerns including the following.

The Electoral Commission supports the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER) as an important improvement in how people register to vote.
The Commission has been calling for IER to be implemented in Great Britain since 2003, principally because the current household registration system is vulnerable to fraud as there is no requirement to provide any evidence of an individual’s identity to register to vote. This undermines trust in the system, and
raises fears of undue influence on the outcome of elections.

Great Britain’s system of electoral registration has remained largely the same since the Victorian period, and is one of the few systems in the world not based on registration by individuals. Instead, one person in each household is responsible for registering everyone else living at that address – they may fill in
the form inaccurately for the whole house, they might miss off someone who should be registered or add an entry which may not be valid. The system is outdated.

The Electoral commission have not really been able to identify why so many do not register. However their main conclusion centres around the general public’s disenchantment and point to reducing turn outs of those registered to vote at election times as evidence of this.
I feel that in part they are correct, but are largely ignoring the elephant in the room.

They go on to say the following

The registers are also used as the basis for selecting people to undertake
jury service and for certain law enforcement and crime prevention purposes.
Credit reference agencies are also able to purchase complete copies of the
registers, which they use to confirm addresses supplied by applicants for bank
accounts, credit cards, personal loans and mortgages

It is in the above paragraph that I feel the Elephant is to be found!
Bearing In mind the huge drop in the numbers registered to vote from 2000 to 2010, I would suggest that a very significant number of the missing would be found from late 2007.
Many people who have lost their homes and have got into debt problems will have removed themselves from the electoral register simply because they were being hounded by Debt Collection agencies using the register. By removing themselves from the system, not only would they be unwittingly disenfranchising themselves, they would be doing so while attempting to remove themselves from the sharks who were chasing them over credit defaults.
It is this usage of the register which allows for the poor to be disenfranchised.
It is somewhat sickening that Business and Banks and Governments can go Bust without much happening to them, when the poorest are penalised not only financially but electorally.
It is also extremely concerning that under Labour and Tory Governments they have colluded to sell personal information to Credit and Debt agencies and other parties. Note the selling off of personal records by the likes of the DVLA to such parties.

In effect it has been a silent disfranchisement of the poorest in Society with Government approval!

Although less complete than those who own property, around 78% of those with Council rented accommodation are registered.So the poorest who are within the system are at least franchised. But we are still looking at 22% of those who are not.

The Commission says the following.

However, it is likely that other non-political motivations are also involved. In our 2010 report we suggested that electoral registration levels could be influenced by patterns of credit and debt, given the use of the registers by credit reference agencies.
This reasoning might seem to indicate that increasing levels of personal debt would suggest a corresponding increase in levels of registration, but it is also possible that an increase in the number of people defaulting on their debt payments would prompt a fall
in registration levels, particularly where individuals seek to evade detection by debt collection agencies.

4.8 Another financial reason for non-registration is likely to be the receipt of council tax discounts. A reduced council tax rate is offered to people living alone but there is anecdotal evidence from some local authorities to suggest that people claim this discount at an address where several people are resident and so residents may remain off the registers in order to avoid the possibility of invalidating this discount

Bearing in mind that these figures are for across the Uk, It is sobering to note that in excess of three quarters of a million Scots are not registered to vote.
With a crucial Independence referendum coming up sometime from 2014 onwards, something needs to be done soon. Not just from a Scottish National perspective, with the vast majority of these disenfranchised voters in two categories, the 18-24 age category and also the lowest wealth category, both of which mostly support Independence.
Perhaps even more importantly in a democratic society, that nobody should be disadvantaged because they are young, poor, or in debt.

We must press our Government to take effective action on this matter urgently, and also raise awareness on it.

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About auldacquaintance

I am not a member of any political party. I am however a strong supporter of Scots Independence. Any views which I express in this Blog are purely my own. This Blog intends to be a place where I will be putting my views on Scots Independence. It will primarily concern itself with the upcoming Referendum In Scotland. However It will also be somewhat diverse in the range of day to day issues which are evident to me in modern day Scotland. Not all of it will be political, and indeed may take me off into avenues I am not even aware of yet. Please come and join in on this journey, and any comments are welcome provided they are not abusive! All the best from a new acquaintance! Rod
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One Response to Too Poor To Vote.

  1. Very interesting figures. Scary too since I’m sure they can be replicated in countries with similar electoral registration systems. Including Ireland.

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