The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 27 November 2015:
Last May, 38,517 people living in the Barnsley East constituency voted in the General Election. I’m proud to say than 21,000 of them chose to re-elect me as their MP.
But it’s worth remembering that only 55.7 per cent of people actually voted at all. That means nearly half them didn’t.
And the problem with people not voting is set to get much, much worse. Very many people won’t be able to vote at the next election, not because they don’t want to, but because they aren’t on the electoral roll.
The Government has rushed through a change to the voting registration system called Individual Electoral Registration (IER). Previously, registration was done by household. One person filled in a form, entered the details of everyone who lived at a property, and those eligible were then registered to vote. Simple.
From now on you and anyone you live with has to register individually. Labour estimates around one million people have dropped from the electoral register.
Falling off the electoral register has consequences. If you don’t register to vote, you might find it harder to get affordable credit, change your energy supplier, get a mobile phone contract, credit card or passport.
Our local area might get less public services than we deserve – such as school places, medical services and public transport – because not everyone is being counted.
And that is to say nothing of the fact that it’s much easier for any government to ignore you and the things that effect your life if you don’t have a voice.
Getting on the electoral register only takes a couple of minutes viawww.gov.uk/register-to-vote. Remember: no vote, no voice.