Chloe Farand reports EXCLUSIVELY
MORE than 22,000 people dropped off the electoral roll in Cardiff in the last year, after a change in the registration system.
Previously, the head of the household had to register all other residents who were eligible to vote. But in June 2014, the Government introduced an individual registration system, which requires voters to register themselves.The highest number of voters dropped off the register in the Cardiff Central constituency.
A Freedom of Information request revealed nearly 12,000 people who disappeared from the electoral roll in Cardiff between March 2014 and February 2015 were registered in the Cardiff Central wards of Adamsdown, Cathays, Cyncoed, Pentwyn and Plasnewydd.
Given the the winning margin in the last election was only around 4,000 votes, this represents a significant proportion of the population. In Cathays alone, 5,929 people, 26 per cent of the fall in registered Cardiff voters, were no longer on the electoral roll.
In Plasnewydd, the number of registered voters slumped by 15 per cent, or 3,085 people, and in Adamsdown there was a decrease of just over 10 per cent, which is 1,687 people.
This sudden drop is widely attributed to a change in the electoral registration system. Those who registered under the previous system, and stayed at the same address, will not be removed from the register until after the May election. But of students and young professionals, who can change address frequently, are directly affected by the change.
If younger voters have been primarily affected by the change of legislation, those older than 65 may be the next age group to fall off the electoral roll. Respectively, 6.3 per cent and 6.9 per cent of Adamsdown and Plasnewydd residents are over the age of 65 and are less likely to have an internet connection to register online.
Chris Weaver, Cathays Councillor, warned: “By next year, everyone will have to have to register through the new procedure, even if people haven’t changed their address. That is when we will see another wave of people dropping off the register.”
The number of people registered to vote in Cardiff Central is 16 per cent lower than in 2010, without taking into account population growth. The Lib Dems won the seat with a 4,576 majority in 2010. So the fall of 8,459 people registered to vote in the constituency could make a significant difference in the upcoming election.
Jo Stevens, Labour parliamentary candidate for Cardiff Central, said: “Despite warnings from Labour that rushing the implementation of individual voter registration would disenfranchise millions of people, the Lib Dem and Tory government have recklessly carried on.”
Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central, has not commented on the issue.
Yesterday afternoon, activists from Hope Not Hate, gathered in front of the City Hall, to warn young people in Cardiff about the importance of voting.
Tom Godwin, 25, South Wales Organiser for Hope Not Hate’s Together project, said: “Over 23,000 people have fallen off the electoral register in Cardiff, and the majority of them are students.This is the biggest act of disenfranchisement in a generation, and it comes ahead of the most important and unpredictable General Election of our lifetime. We know that if we do not speak, others will do so for us.”
Elliot Howells, President of Cardiff University’s Student Union, has led a campaign to encourage students to register. He said: ”There’s no doubt that the change in the system has had a negative effect on the student body. Whereas previously, all halls of residence would be added at once, students now have to individually register causing a significant fall in registration numbers.”
Richard Hopkin, the Conservative MP candidate for Cardiff Central said: “The changes introduced by the Coalition Government brought in the Individual Electoral Registration system (IER) which replaced the old Household Electoral Registration system in order to make the process of registration more convenient and more secure. ”
“We want to see everyone engaged in the democratic process and are working hard to encourage everyone to register.”