Dearne MP: Registering to vote is vital

Michael Dugher MP

Michael Dugher MP

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Most people won’t know that there is an important date to remember this year and that is Monday, April 20, the deadline for registering to vote.

And whilst I recognise that most people are pretty tuned off and tuned out when it comes to politics, the truth is: no vote, no voice.

A polling station in Barnsley.

A polling station in Barnsley.

Being registered to vote is important. When I’m chatting to people in the check-out queue at the local supermarket or having a pint on a Friday night in my favourite watering hole, the Milton Arms in Elsecar, people rightly have plenty of issues and worries on their mind.

They can be anything from the cost-of-living, immigration or what’s happening to our NHS. I accept that it’s my job to convince people that if you really want to change things, you have to have your say and go out and vote.

This government hasn’t made it easy by changing the rules. They rushed through legislation to introduce individual electoral registration (IER) which requires each individual to register, rather than the head of the household as it was previously. As a result, 950,845 registered voters have disappeared from the register across the country.

According to the Electoral Commission, about 30 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds are currently not registered to vote compared with fewer than five per cent of over 65s not being registered to vote. Only 56 per cent of those living in private rented accommodation are registered to vote, this is compared to 90 per cent of homeowners.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that those who appear to not be registered to vote are the very people that have been let down by David Cameron’s government.

The government trebled tuition fees for students, which impacts disproportionately on the young and they voted against sensible action proposed by Labour to improve tenancy arrangements for private renters by guaranteeing longer term tenancies with predictable rents and banning rip-off letting agent fees.

A Labour government is committed to giving the vote to all 16 and 17-year-olds by May 2016. That’s the biggest extension of the right to vote in almost a century – to over 1.5 million people. We will ensure that young people do not lose their voice but it’s important they play their part too. You can register to vote from the age of 16, then when the general election arrives just follow the instructions on the polling card you get in the post. To find out if you are registered to vote in Barnsley, you can ring the Barnsley Council Elections Helpline on 01226 773070.

Remember, if you are not registered to vote by April 20 then you can’t have your say on another important day to remember - and that’s this year’s general election on Thursday, May 7.