Unite-backed bus heads West to encourage people to register to vote

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, UK unions, Unite,

vote ballotThe Unite-backed NoVoteNoVoice bus today heads West in a bid to register voters before the General Election.

Some 7.5 million people across the UK stand to lose out on the vote that they are entitled to, but fears are growing that huge numbers of west country and Welsh voters will be among those unable to take part in May given the worrying decline in voter registration in these parts of the country.

To raise awareness of this risk, a registration roadshow is rolling westwards to seek out and register would-be voters. The NoVoteNoVoice double decker – powered by a Daily Mirror, HOPE note hate, Operation Black Vote, Operation Disabled Vote and Unite the union coalition – will target those groups where drop off rates are causing greatest concern – the young, those in rented housing and minority communities.

In Bristol, 5,641 voters have fallen off the roll but it is in Wales where the slide in voter numbers is particularly alarming. In Cardiff, some 23,500 voters have disappeared, with 14,000 of these in one constituency alone, the marginal seat of Cardiff Central. Along the coast in Swansea, over 10,000 voters have fallen off the electoral roll since 2014.

According to the NVNV team, patchy promotion of the change away from household and onto individual registration has caused voter numbers to plummet, which is why the eye-catching bus will be equipped with everything would-be voters need to get registered. Where people are uncertain about their status they can check that too using the unique VoteBooster technology that allows voters to check if they are on the roll there and then.

Nick Lowles of HOPE not hate said: “Elections are the life-blood of any democracy so it is a scandal that so many people cannot vote. The government’s own figures show that 8.5 million people – 17.7 per cent of all eligible voters – are not registered to vote. And what is worse is that it is those groups who most need a voice – the young, those on lower incomes and minority communities – who are worst affected.

“Giving people the chance to vote is absolutely essential and I would urge everyone to support the No Vote, No Voice campaign and start talking to their friends, families and neighbours about the importance of voting.”

Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror said: “Politicians have been too relaxed about the registration changes being understood, but as we cannot wait for Westminster to wake up, we’re getting out there to talk to people about the value of voting.

“Simply registering sends a message to politicians. It says, if you want to win my vote then you must talk to me and listen to me. People may feel hacked off with political life in this country but our message is ‘don’t sit this out – your vote is your power, use it’.”

Ellen Clifford for Operation Disabled Vote said: “Disabled people remain one of the most marginalised and excluded groups in society and every day barriers to participation include exercising our democratic right to vote. On the road with the NVNV tour we’ll be talking to disabled people about how they can vote and the access standards they can expect at polling stations.

“If disabled people want politicians to prioritise the issues that matter most to us then we need to make disabled voter power really count.”

Anthony Curley national coordinator of Unite young members added: “The saying goes that ‘if you vote you get stuff, if you don’t you get stuffed’. There’s a worrying trend of young people not engaging with the political process, too many aren’t registering to vote – I fear that may become the habit of a lifetime.

“We need to mobilise the voting power of younger people, get them on that roll so that politicians of all parties think about our countries’ future, not just getting over the finishing line in May.”

The NVNV bus will stop at Bristol (today), Cardiff (tomorrow), Birmingham (8 March), Chester (9 March), Liverpool (10 March), Manchester (11 March), Calder Valley (12 March), Sheffield (13 March), Leeds (14 March) and Newcastle (15 March).

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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