On the 5th of February 1832, the Great Reform Act introduced voter registration for the very first time. Then, the number of eligible voters in a borough varied from six to 12,000, with the selection of some Members of Parliament controlled by one person. We have come a long way since then, but there is still much more we can do.
In 2010, only 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, while 76% of those aged 65 and over cast their vote. At the moment, only half of all young people are registered to vote. Certain groups are disproportionately under-represented. Only 56% of people living in private rented homes are registered. Nearly half of those not registered to vote mistakenly believe that they are.
We must try and do better. The electoral register performs a hugely important civic function. You can only vote, and choose the politicians who represent you, if you are on the register. It also ensures citizens are properly counted for the drawing of political boundaries – by ward and constituency – meaning the voice of Waveney is heard. For our criminal justice system, the register enables selection for jury service.
From next year, each individual will have to register, rather than the traditional method of a household survey. To register and to ensure you have a voice, simply visit AboutmyVote.co.uk, or contact Waveney District Council.