The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process

Tony Burke warns of the coalition’s attempts to reduce the electoral roll by three million left wing voters under the guise of allowing people to be left alone.

Tony Burke is the Assistant General Secretary of Unite

Last week the Guardian reported that Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, was considering making a u-turn on UK voter registration. The proposal being made is that the coalition would make it easier for people ‘not to register to vote’.

PICA government white paper proposed that as part of a move from household to individual voter registration from 2014, voters would no longer be required to co-operate with the electoral registration officer whose duty it is to compile the annual register. In the UK at present, voters maybe subjected to fines or warning letters for not registering.

The proposal could disenfranchise 3 million mainly working-class people, students and people from ethnic minorities who are not registered. The Electoral Commission, supported by psephologists, the Labour opposition and electoral registration officers has warned as many as a third of voters falling off the register.

Clegg now says he was “minded to change these provisions when we bring forward the final proposal”.

The question is why was the proposal brought forward in the first place? Constitutional affairs minister, Mark Harper, waffled that the proposal was made to help people who just wanted to be “left alone”, and also to allow the electoral registration officer to get on with his job!

The reality is that this is a clear piece of gerrymandering by keeping people off the electoral role creating a right wing hegemony.

Make no mistake, the Conservatives are taking a leaf out of the US right-wing’s playbook. Whilst not in the same league – as yet anyway – it is worth taking a look at what is currently happening in the USA where right-wing state legislators and governors are setting out to reduce the franchise, by eliminating millions of potential Democrat voters. We would be well advised to take note.

In the USA right-wing state governments have enacted so many new laws it is difficult to keep a full analysis.

However a study by the Brennan Centre For Justice (based at the New York School of Law) shows that of the 19 laws and two executive actions passed in 14 US states, the new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast their votes in the 2012 US presidential election. The states that have already changed voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270, which are needed to win the US presidency.

These changes affect predominantly retired people, the young, ethnic minorities, low-income families and those with disabilities.

States making the changes say that they have done so to “prevent fraud”, “to ease administrative burdens” and “to save money”.

Overall, state legislators passed the following measures:

At least 34 US states introduced legislation that would require voters to show state issued photo identification in order to vote. Photo ID bills came into law in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin quadrupling the 2011 figure. Currently 11% of American citizens do not possess a government issued photo ID – that’s over 21 million people.

At least twelve states including Alabama, Tennessee and Kansas introduced legislation requiring proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote. Only two states had previously passed proof of citizenship laws.

Thirteen states introduced bills to end the popular “Election Day” and “same-day” voter registration, and to limit voter registration mobilisation efforts and reduce other registration drives. These included Maine who passed a law eliminating Election Day registration, Ohio ended its weeklong period of same day voter registration, Florida and Texas passed laws restricting voter registration drives and Florida and Wisconsin passed laws making it more difficult for people who move to stay registered and vote.

Nine states have introduced bills to reduce early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia succeeded in enacting bills reducing early voting whilst two states – Florida and Iowa – reversed laws which made it easier for citizens with past convictions to restore their voting rights, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters.

Even the non-partisan and highly respected League Of Women Voters – founded in 1920 – says these new laws make it impossible, in Florida in this instance, for it to carry out one of its core missions: registering new voters.

As the links between extreme right wing republicans and other groups and the Conservatives begin to be more exposed (as the Observer did in its October 16th issue) we should take note here in the UK. Simply “leaving people alone” could be another step in building a right wing hegemony here in the UK as well.

See also:

Harman: Lib Dems “colluding” with Tories to deny millions the voteShamik Das, September 29th 2011

Reality dawns for Lib Dems who’ll lose out under seat cull plansShamik Das, September 5th 2011

Electoral reformers should oppose the coalition’s gerrymanderingWill Straw, July 28th 2010

Clegg’s Bill is undemocratic and partisanJohn Costello, July 23rd 2010

Lib Dem turkeys vote for ChristmasShamik Das & Maria Arbiter, July 8th 2010

47 Responses to “The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process”

  1. salardeen

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  2. Simon Bowkett

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  3. British Citizen

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  4. Geoffrey Pearson

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  5. -

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  6. gareth in blyth

    The coalition are : //t.co/T92jr94d writes @TonyBurke2010

  7. Political Planet

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: Tony Burke warns of the coalition’s … //t.co/X4KZ3i5f

  8. gregorylj1

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  9. Michael

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/QSrJC2Wc

  10. jon2aylor

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  11. Pucci D

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  12. Νέα Νέμεσις Εργασίας

    "Council Tax evasion the exclusive domain of #Labour supporters!" boast @leftfootfwd //t.co/3OaYLg2n

  13. HullRePublic

    RT @TheRightArticle: The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/45nuOwZs

  14. William McEvoy

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  15. Sue Marsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/Uw96Hkal

  16. Prof Patrick McGhee

    The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/3UpfQxWT writes @TonyBurke2010

  17. Tony Burke

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/hz5X7drn

  18. strats118

    The coalition are : //t.co/T92jr94d writes @TonyBurke2010

  19. Janet Graham

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/Uw96Hkal

  20. Rob the crip

    I actually think it’s a great idea people who do not wish to register should have that right not to. I have no interest after a life time voting to vote again, not for the parties around now.

  21. SomeRandomBint

    @Rob

    You’re mistaking not wanting to vote, with not having the facility to register for the right to vote. You don’t have to use your vote, but what this idea seems to want to do, is make it harder for people to register for their democratic right. It’s complicating the process of registration to benefit the minority who have no interest in (or can’t be bothered with the paperwork) at least giving themselves the option.

  22. andthesewalls

    Interesting article about the coalition trying to make it harder for you to register and vote, //t.co/ntYHSF0W

  23. paul barker

    Classic piece of “guilt by association” smearing, what has all the reasonable criticism of The American Hard Right got to do with The LibDems ?

  24. Jane Shaw

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/cKus4s6S

  25. Harry Barnes

    In addition to the three and a half million people missing from electoral registers as assessed by the Electoral Commission prior to the last General Election, there are many additional problems about the accuracy of existing registrations – let alone the mass problems that would arise from current Government proposals. How accurate are the forms which are currently returned to electoral registration officers? How many people just confirm the information sent to them on the registration forms either in error or to hide the details of all the qualifying residents in a household – a habit which was given a boost by the poll tax and has not died out. There are also shortcomings in the range of people who are entitled to register. Surely anyone who is established as a resident in the UK should be entitled to be enfranchised as they are subject to the nation’s legal requirements, including taxation – what of “no taxation without representation?” The only limits on enfranchisement should be (a) a qualifying age and (b) a carefully monitored exclusion of those with a very serious mental impairment. Yet residents from overseas are only currently entitled to registration if they come from Commonwealth nations or the Republic of Ireland. Why not others?

    A proactive electoral registration system needs putting into operation. It would help if the vote was given to 16 year olds. Whilst “attainers” at 15, they could first be registered via their schools. This would make then easier to be tracked for registration purposes later in life. Regular canvassing should also take place by electoral registration officers to gain more accurate registration. Then modern technology could be used by electoral registration officers to help in the compiling of registers and to make effective use of the provisions of the Rolling Registration system – i.e. to see that names are placed on the relevant registers as people move their residence within a mobile society. This would also end the dubious need to allow some people to have their names appearing on more then one register.

    Tom Paine and the Chartists (with the important addition of the Suffragettes) knew the significance the franchise. A full franchise was thought finally to have been achieved in the UK in 1928, but we have allowed it to wither on the vine. Establishing a full franchise should be a priority for all democrats and especially for democratic socialists who have a special belief in the importance of social equality.

    When I was an MP I sort to tackle the matter via a Private Members Bill in the 1992-3 session and became involved with a body called “Full Franchise”. Then I pushed various Ten Minute Rule Bills and amendments to legislation, especially to what became the 2000 Representation of the People’s Act. But the only success I can claim (as the Government took it up) was the initial and perfectly inadequate provisions on Rolling Electoral Registration. Since those times information technology has bounded forth and the hopes contained in my proposals could be considerably polished and advanced.

    Labour should be pressed to take these matters on board. Ideologically they don’t need even to frighten middle England by saying that it is a socialist measure. If they need a vested interest before they can take up a principle, then a full franchise would lead to a future redrawing of constituency boundaries. This time in Labour’s favour. For the Electoral Commission shows that those who are missing from the registers are a high percentage of the poor, ethnic minorities, the young and the highly mobile such as those in bed-sitter land. The only problem for Labour is that it would have to start paying serious attention to the well-being of these categories.

  26. Mark Cantrell

    RT @leftfootfwd @TonyBurke2010 The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process: //t.co/rufFZ5mI #cz #novel

  27. Will

    Individual registration was in Labour’s manifesto for 2010, so there’s nothing wrong with that. Labour are trying hard to find something to oppose the coalition on something they should support, as was the case on the alternative vote.

    The Electoral Commission, I believe, opposed voluntary individual registration, not individual registration as a concept. It’s obvious that you don’t make the electoral process opt-in, as that would introduce all sorts of problems. A provision to opt-out in writing could work if constituency sizes weren’t bound to them.

    Indeed, Barnes’s comments would be a good plan to ensuring widespread registration of young people if the voting age ever did get lowered to 16, as is Lib Dem party policy. And it would be also good if it got Labour to take serious notice of their voting base: after all, despite some Labour activists bleating, the cuts were not directly responsible for the riots; Poverty and lack of opportunity was the reason why so many people rioted in places, most of them Labour constituencies where thirteen years of Labour government did nothing for them. No party is free of criticism for being out of touch regarding the riots, though.

  28. Leon Wolfson

    @3 – Well, with individual registration, schools should still be *required* to register 17 year-olds. Remember that the school leaving age is rising…

  29. Earnest

    Electoral role?

  30. Dave Citizen

    Any politician that argues for electoral changes from anything other than a ‘better democracy’ standpoint should be ashamed of themselves.

    If one of our representatives wants to put party interests above democratic principle then they could at least have the honesty to openly declare that they think democracy is over-rated and that their party’s views are the ‘correct’ ones – I guess that’s what the likes of Hitler and co believed any way.

  31. NickSmeggHead

    Most of these changes are driven by the neocons who believe fewer voters means they can control the government via the lobbyist. They really do not believe in democracy as it will effect their profits.

    As Lester Thurow said in the past that “democracy and capitalism have very different beliefs about the proper distribution of power. One believes in a completely equal distribution of political power, ‘one man [sic] one vote,’ while the other believes that it is the duty of the economically fit to drive the unfit out of business and into extinction. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and inequalities in purchasing power are what capitalist efficiency is all about. Individual profit comes first and firms become efficient to be rich. To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. Democracy is not.”

  32. william

    What really locks the left out of the electoral process is the UK’s enslavement to the grand ‘European Project’,now challenged overtly by the Tory back benchers,and covertly by many Labour traditional MPs.Where is our leadership?Are they all waiting for a ‘Kinnock post’?Why are they not speaking out in favour of a referendum?Do they not realise that the only road to a truly socialist Britain is one free of Brussels?

  33. Mr. Sensible

    Rob, registering is not the same as voting, as I am sure you are well aware. The electoral register is also used for other things, such as checking credit applications and detecting and preventing crime. So, this proposal just doesn’t mke a word of sense. I favour a system where you register once, and only do so again if something changes.

  34. Jack Seale

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  35. Matt Leys

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  36. mschatnoir

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  37. Robin CGM

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  38. HeardinLondon

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  39. Amritansh

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  40. Jane

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  41. freiahill

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  42. Rob the crip

    Bloody hell I have a disability getting money for a loan would not happen, yes I know what registration is used for, control.

    I think it’s a great idea since I’m one of Newer labours undeserving.

  43. Melissa Richards

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  44. Daniel Awbery

    Who stands between us and US- style mass disenfranchisement of voters? Step up, Nick Clegg! That'll be OK then. //t.co/bPxo9fCw

  45. Leon Wolfson

    @8 – LMAO. There’s a conspiracy of people who really DEEP DOWN know they…wait, no there isn’t. And the EU has a stronger mandate than this government.

  46. Beverly A. Williams

    RT @leftfootfwd: The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process //t.co/6nxWgJ5X

  47. Clegg under fire over voter registration, party funding and youth unemployment | Left Foot Forward

    […] The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process – Tony Burke, October 23rd […]

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