A huge exercise to update the electoral register is underway in Manchester – and citizens are being urged to respond.
Letters have been sent to the more than 220,000 homes in Manchester with details of who is registered at each address as part of the annual registration process. People are being asked to confirm - via text, online or by post - if the information is still correct and to provide details of any changes. Anyone living at the address who is eligible but not already registered is being invited to register.
By law every household must respond to this form and anybody who does not could receive a visit from a Council inspector and be liable to a fine of up to £1000.
The General and local elections held this May were the first held under the individual electoral registration (IER) system which replaced a household registration system (where one person could register everyone in the household) to a system where everyone has personal responsibility to make sure they are registered.
Manchester made rigorous efforts to encourage people to register in the run-up to the elections which resulted in almost 47,000 people being added to the register between December 2014 and May 2015.
But with the annual electoral register due to be published on 1st December this year, the process of updating the register must begin again - building on the work which has already been carried out.
Individual electoral registration is particularly challenging for large cities such as Manchester which have a high proportion of people changing address every year, as well as high proportions of nationally under-registered groups such as students, young people and people living in rented homes.
Manchester is working hard to address this challenge, with a particular emphasis on targeting under-registered groups and areas. It will be replicating work with students and young people, including the use of ‘ambassadors’ to encourage their peers to register and separately targeting home moves and other groups.
Canvassers will start visits earlier in parts of Manchester which have a higher ‘churn’ of population and lower registration response rates. As pioneered in the run-up to the election, they will be able to register people on their doorsteps.
Manchester is also encouraging the government to consider changes to the electoral registration system which would better integrate registering with other transactions - such as signing up with a GP or applying for a passport or driving licence - to make it simpler for citizens.
City centre councillor Kevin Peel said:
"It is so so important that every local resident is registered to vote. It isn't just about having the right to vote for your elected representatives - the number of registered voters affects things like funding decisions and resource allocations. We've already seen thousands of people disappear from the register in the city centre since the introduction of IER - this could have big implications for local services and future elections.
"But more than that it’s important for residents themselves. The electoral register is used for credit checks and if you are not on the register you may find it harder to get a loan, mortgage, finance agreement or even mobile phone contract. Registering a legal obligation and failure to do so can be punishable by a fine."
Register to vote online at gov.uk/register-to-vote or complete the form posted to you in the last couple of weeks