Labour has urged the government to use planned reforms to the electoral system to ensure more people without a permanent home are helped to vote, after statistics showed that only about 2% are registered. The Cabinet Office is due later to announce details later this month of its democratic engagement strategy, which aims to improve voter turnout by making it more straightforward for people to join the electoral register. Concerted efforts to help overseas voters and students to sign up had increased the size of the electoral register, but Labour says the system for people without a permanent address is unwieldy and offputting. Most voters can sign up online, but people who are homeless or in temporary accommodation have to download, print and manually fill in a form called a declaration of local connection, which must then be sent to the local electoral registration officer.
Ahead of the engagement strategy, which is due to be published on 19 December, Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, has written to the Cabinet Office minister, Chris Skidmore, saying the government is “not doing enough to encourage homeless people to participate in our democracy”.
The latest electoral register for England showed just 2,963 entries made through a declaration of local connection, Smith wrote, while more than 137,000 people are officially listed as homeless or in temporary accommodation.
The figures show 48 local authorities without a single such person registered to vote, among them Bradford, Luton, Worcester and Harrow in north London. Only two areas have more than 100 registrations.