A STAGGERING 6,000 people have applied for the right to vote in Redditch since the introduction of a new registration system.
On average 300 residents a week have been applying to Redditch Borough Council to make their voice heard following the switchover to Individual Electoral Registration eight months ago. The figure is almost four times the number applying before the change.
Previously it was up to the head of the household to ensure everyone aged 18 or over were registered to vote by adding them to a form sent to households every October.
But last June IER was introduced meaning voters must register themselves and provide their national insurance number and date of birth so their identity can be verified. The move was designed to combat fraud but critics argued short-term renters and students would slip through the net.
Following the changeover everyone on the old register was transferred to the new system and those whose identity could be matched with data held by the Department of Work and Pensions have remained on it while others – such as those who have recently moved – have been required to re-register or prove their identity to ensure they can vote. However as a safeguard no one who was registered under the old system will be removed until after the General Election in May.
But there have been warnings up to three million people could drop off the register by December 2016 transitional arrangements come to an end, although the Government could bring the date forward to December this year.
So far fears of a huge drop off in registered voters in Redditch have failed to materialise as the new register was published in December and revealed the number of voters registered for the local elections stood at 62,859 and the Parliamentary seat at 60,428.
The council has carried out a number of measures to ensure the register is as accurate as possible including sending letters to every household advising them who is registered, visiting schools and sixth forms to talk to first time voters, officers visiting residential care homes across the borough and setting up stalls at gyms, leisure centres and the town centre.
Since December 3,000 applications alone have been received, 70 per cent of which were made online.
Tracey Hurst, electoral officer for Redditch Borough Council, said: “It is really important everyone registers on the electoral roll at their address to give them the opportunity to cast their vote. The new online application process takes less than five minutes to complete so it’s quick and simple to use.
“If you have recently moved house or are unsure in any way as to whether you are registered, we would urge you to register online or contact the elections office.”
Visit www.gov.uk/registertovote or contact the council’s election team on 01527 881421 for help to register.