Friday, 20 January 2012

Where have all the voters gone?

In 1982 when I was still a Plaid activist . I was one of the small Party members to spend my days fighting the Gower By-election.

One of the candidates John Donovan stood as a Computer Democrat and although he only realised 125 . His idea whilst the concept of the Internet existed  the World Wide Web was a decade that computers could support democracy  was somewhat visionary

So his argument then that there should be a electorate which  constantly voted on issues which may have seen like Science Fiction in 1982 loks almost possible these days and with the growing influence of Petitions triggering the House of Commons . It could be argued it as already began.

I mention this not because I believe there is  a deep concern in the amount of  people voting in Elections.

In the past Wales used to have the highest turnout of any "Region" of the UK but it has joined the rest it seeing a decline in the number people voting in General Election.

Take the number of voters in Wales in the the Election which saw a New Labour  take Power (1997 and 2010 when they lost.

Total  Number of Votes 1,619,703
Turn out 73.5 %

Lab 886,935/34
Con 317,127/0
Lib/dem 200,020/2
Reff 38,245/0
Soc lab 6,203/0
Green 17,018/0
NLP 516/0
Others 7909/0

Total Number of Votes
Lab 531,601/26
Con 382,720/8
LibDem 295,164/3
Plaid 165,394/3
UKIP 35,690/0
BNP 23,0088/0
Green 6,293/0
TUSC 341/0
Others 24,442/0
Soclab 6203/0

From this we  see that it is Labour who have lost the most number of votes due to absenteeism in Wales

And this is reflected into what has happened to the massive votes they used to have in some Welsh Constituencies.

Take Islwyn for Example

Electorate 50,540
Turn out 72.0%
Lab 26,995 74.2%
Libdem 3064 8.4%
Con 2,864  7.9%
Plaid 2,272 6.2%
Reff 1209 3.3%
Maj ority 23931 65.8%

Electorate 54,826
Turnout 34,690
Lab 17,069 49.2%
Con 4,854 14.0%
Plaid 4,518 13.0%
Libdem 3,597 10.4%
Ind 1,495 4.3%
BNP 1,320 3.8%
UKIP 916 2.7%
Ind 901 2.6%
Majority 12,215 35.21%
So Labour has lost over 14000 votes  over the period  that they were in government and seemingly largely due to absent voters.

And they will not be helped by plans to introduce individual registration as outlined here by Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards here as it expected that the changes will increase the number of unregistered voters
as he says

There is surely consensus that the preferred outcome is that all adults who are entitled to vote should be registered. Everyone should be on the electoral roll and have the opportunity to cast their vote at elections. The principle of individual electoral registration is positive—that electors should take upon themselves the responsibility to register to vote in their own right rather than under the aegis of a household. All relevant people should be willing and able to register and should have the same opportunity to do so. However, there might be a disconnect between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome in that although relevant people may register, they might not all actually do so. The Minister said that the Government hoped to learn lessons from Northern Ireland, and I look forward to seeing some of the resulting changes in the Bill. However, I believe that when the changes were introduced in Northern Ireland in 2002—Mark Durkan might wish to correct me—there was a fall of 11% in registered electors, and it has taken more than 10 years to rebuild the figures.

If this true then surely it will be Labour will be the biggest looser.

Already according to the Electoral Commission 6 million people were not registered across the UK.

How can this be?

Why it is impossible to use National Insurance Numbers to automatically register voters in the computer age is beyond me. I'm sure someone can see the flaws. But in 1982 someone had a vision of using computers to increase our democracy surely it would.t me to difficult in 2012 to ensure that they are at least used to ensure people are registered to vote.

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