Archive for the ‘electoral register’ Category

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Back to sunny Soho

In Birmingham,electoral register on October 22, 2011 by dadge

For the third year, I’ve been out on the streets of Soho, canvassing for the city council’s Elections Office in order to get as many people onto the electoral register as possible. The process has been made a lot quicker, easier and cheaper this year by the use of data matching, by which I guess they mean they match non-responding households up with council-tax records. So all that’s left for me and my fellow canvassers is to check on the 14% of non-responding households that they don’t have any data for. In my case the percentage is a bit higher – instead of 250 houses to visit, this year I have to go to 100.

After three years, I’m getting know the area (and some of the people) pretty well. Although it’s right on the edge of town (and a stone’s throw from the WBA ground) it seems just as much a part¬†of Birmingham as any other. The Soho ward is a bit of an artificial creation, combining as it does three distinct communities: South Handsworth, Winson Green and an area you could call East Cape Hill or West Rotton Park or Summerfield Park or NW Edgbaston. ūüôā (It would really be better if¬†the ward¬†was split into 3 wards with 1 councillor for each.)

The Boundary Commission propose to tack the ward on to a new Smethwick seat (pdf) but only the Cape Hill quarter has any connections with Smethwick.

In the current boundary review, I’ve proposed that¬†the ward¬†should be part of a Perry Barr or Handsworth seat, with my street in Oscott at the other end of the constituency, and that seems a good plan to me. The parish and town of Handsworth stretched all the way from the¬†Hockley Brook¬†to¬†Sutton Park¬†and it’s a shame that there hasn’t been a Handsworth constituency since 1983 – currently the area is divided between the Ladywood and Perry Barr seats.

 Map from A Vision of Britain

By the way, 9th November is the 100th anniversary of the town of Handsworth leaving Staffordshire and becoming part of the city of Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.

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Ask Locus: Can Birmingham be reviewed on its own?

In Birmingham,electoral register,redistricting on October 4, 2011 by dadge

Over on the Re-Stirred forum, bunnyson asks:

Is it possible for Birmingham to be redrawn, using current wards, without grabbing Solihull or other authorities’ wards?

Just by using current wards, no.

Birmingham, with an electorate of 731,731, is entitled to just over 9 and a half seats. If the Commission gives it 10 seats, the average size would be 73,173. The legal minimum size is 72,810 so it is possible to review the city on its own, just very messy.

It’d be nice if all the 40 wards were the same size, but they vary from 16,461 (Erdington) to 20,011 (Springfield). The current Erdington constituency has an electorate of 67,598, i.e. more than 5,000 short of the required number, and I guarantee that there is no combination of whole wards in north Birmingham that could create a seat of the required size.

So, the only way is ward-splitting. A better mathematician than me could work out how many of the city’s wards would have to be sliced up, but it would be a lot.

And if we went down that route, the main people to suffer would be the voters of Solihull and Warwickshire. Together they’re entitled to just under 7 and a half seats, so if Birmingham gets 10, they’d get 7. Except that wouldn’t be possible, since that’d mean an average seat size of 81,243, well above the legal limit. So just to keep their seats down to around 80,000 they’d have to give 9,000 voters to Coventry, and to accommodate them you’d have to split a couple of wards in Coventry.

Anyway, we’d end up with 10 seats in Birmingham with 73,000 voters in each, 7 in Warwickshire and Solihull with 80,000 voters in each and 3 in Coventry with 75,000 in one and 80,000 in the other two. It doesn’t sound too bad, I suppose, but it is a bit unfair and (more importantly) it tears up the electoral map.

Postscript 1: There is a point of view that says that if a city is entitled to X number of seats, then just give it those seats, and leave it up to the cityfolk to apportion them. Unfortunately (?) the powers that be decided that 5% law doesn’t apply to local authorities, it applies to individual seats.

Postscript 2: It’s widely regarded to be true (and having done some canvassing myself, I agree) that there’s thousands of people missing off the electoral roll in Birmingham. If we can somehow get those people onto the roll, maybe we could get our extra half an MP back.

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Making voters

In electoral register on September 16, 2011 by dadge

Voters don’t just exist, they have to be made. Either the Conservatives don’t understand this or they’re involved in a particularly cynical plan to give themselves an easy ride at future elections – by removing from the electoral register many of the people who disagree with them.

Last June the Government published its plans for individual voter registration. They say the main reason for the change is to improve the accuracy and completeness of the register. The plans will in fact make the register much less complete than it is now (and it’s estimated that it’s only 90% complete at the moment), and if it’s less complete, how can it be more accurate?

Instead of local councils asking someone from each household to complete a registration form, they’re going to rely on 45 million people applying to fill a form in. Paragraph 44 of the White Paper states:
“When IER is introduced, an application for registration must be made by each person individually to the ERO for the area in which they are applying to be registered. It will be a matter of choice for the individual if they wish to register.”

As experts lined up this week to tell the constitutional reform select committee, this change will decimate the electoral roll. It’s already hard work, getting young people and poor people to register to vote, even when it’s against the law not to, so are we really going to introduce a system that will strip millions more (non-Tory) voters from the list? The government already seems ready to start removing people, albeit they’re having the decency (!) to wait until 2015:
“No voters will be removed from the electoral register for not registering individually until after the next General Election,” quoth their press release.

The two excuses for the change seem to be reducing cost and reducing fraud. And I’m sceptical about how much money would be saved. Instead of a clear and costed system of canvassing, we’ll be spending a fortune scraping the barrel to find ways of persuading people to register. A better way to save money would be to stop having an annual canvass. We need one the year before a general election, and one more in the middle of the 5-year cycle. In between, we can rely on the so-called rolling registration.

Now don’t get me wrong, voter fraud has become an increasingly taxing problem over the last twenty years, but there are other ways of tackling it. Better voter education would help, but the best medicine would be better policing. Although I’m a big fan of good old-fashioned British trust, the attitude at British polling stations is too laissez-faire, and the postal voting system was also relaxed to the point where fraud became inevitable.

Just as, quite correctly, the courts didn’t take kindly to anyone who participated, in any way, in last month’s riots, they need to get tough with electoral criminals. Not only the fraudsters, but also the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t register to vote. The last couple of years I’ve spent part of the autumn out on the streets of Handsworth, getting people to sign their registration form. The official line is that we should tell people that they need to register because it helps them to get credit*, but to hell with that – our democracy is important. Let’s start taking people to court, and then maybe they’ll think twice before refusing to sign.

* (I notice that, despite this oft-repeated sales pitch, the chairman of the EROs, John Stewart, told the select committee that it might be better to stay off the electoral register because it’s used to combat credit fraud.)

It doesn’t matter if Joe Bloggs doesn’t want to register, that’s tough shit. Britain is a representative democracy, and in order for that democracy to function effectively we need a complete register of electors. (For one thing, the monolithic multi-million-pound boundary review that’s just started is predicated on there being an accurate register.) Once you’ve got the vote, you can do what you like with it, but it’s your duty to register.

An end to this pussyfooting. We put people in jail for not having a TV licence, ffs.

Further reading:
The completeness and accuracy of electoral registers in Great Britain

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Getting Brummies on the roll

In Birmingham,electoral register on October 8, 2009 by dadge

A while ago the council sent us an electoral registration form. We didn’t do anything about it, so they sent us another one. This time, I did finally get around to registering: not by sending the form back, but by confirming our details online. While I was doing this I noticed that the city needs canvassers to go out door-to-door to mop up those people who haven’t responded to the mailings. I was busy at the time, but yesterday I remembered about it and applied. Four hours later I was trained and this morning I collected my canvassing pack from a secret location somewhere in the city. ūüėČ