NoVoteNoVoice - on the road, 1-15 March 2015
With under 70 days to go until the May general election, the first bus tour to convert the growing number of unregistered voters in England and Wales - estimated to be at least one million people - will get underway as the No Vote No Voice (NVNV) coalition takes to the road.
Recent changes to voter registration have seen electoral roll numbers tumble particularly among the young, those living in inner city areas and minority ethnic groups. That is why the NVNV coalition - including the Daily Mirror, HOPE not hate, Unite the union, Operation Disabled Vote and Operation Black Vote - will tour to the town centres, university and college campuses, housing estates and workplaces where voter drop-off rates are ringing alarm bells.
Setting off from London on 1 March - 67 days from the general election - the tour will head to the Essex coast then onwards to the parts of England and Wales indicating worrying drop offs in voter registration. It will finish up in Newcastle on 15 March with a city centre celebration of the power of voting, and, in tribute to Mother’s Day, reach out to the mums who have not yet registered to vote.
Over 15 days, the NVNV tour will meet with as many potential voters as possible and urge them to register to take part in the upcoming May general election. According to figures produced by HOPE not hate for the NVNV coalition, in parts of the country, thousands of people have disappeared off the electoral roll, including:
- Cardiff: 23,500 people have dropped off the electoral register, the largest in any local authority. 14,000 of these have dropped off in Cardiff Central constituency and 7,700 in Cathays ward.
- Lancaster: Only 22 of the 7,500 students who live in University & Scotforth ward are on the register.
- Leeds: 3,219 voters are lost in Headingley ward, meaning approximately 8,000 people in ward are not on register.
- Liverpool: 20,000 voters lost across city in a year, including 12,000 in the student dense Liverpool Riverside constituency. In addition to students, there has been a drop of over 2,000 17-year-olds joining the register, a fall of 75%.
- Newcastle: 8,000 people disappear from the register, with a 55% drop off in Ouseburn ward.
Voter data will be available for each stage of the tour, and the NVNV coalition members will be available to speak to the media.
Speaking ahead of the tour Nick Lowles of HOPE not hate said: “Elections are the lifeblood of any democracy so it is a scandal that so many people cannot vote. The government's own figures show that 8,500,000 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. And this is before the student drop-off is included.
“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 change in the law on registration. Far greater effort and resources need to be put into driving up awareness of the new rules but as we cannot wait for Westminster to wake up, we are getting out there to talk to people about the value of voting. Our democracy depends on people feeling that voting is worthwhile, and the first step on that journey is to get them to register.
“Simply registering also 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 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.”
Members of the media are welcome to visit the NVNV bus as it makes it stops at Thurrock (1 March); Brent (2 March); Hastings (3 March); Brighton (4 March); Southampton (5 March); Bristol (6 March); Cardiff (7 March); 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).