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Progress on Second Home Voters 7 April, 2011

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in News.
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The BBC’s Graham Smith, who – along with Angus Lamond – has made much of the running in the continuing battle to bring transparency to the issue of second home owners casting their votes in Cornish elections, reports that 947 people who had previous been ‘eligible’ have been purged from the electoral register.

This is a welcome step towards ensuring that Cornish elections are fair and that the outcome represents the view of the people who live here all year round. It has always seemed strange to me that the electoral system should allow for people who often only spend a few days here to have a direct influence on our representatives, whether at national or local level.

Given how close some of the results were in 2010 (George Eustice won Camborne & Redruth by 66 votes for the Conservatives) the averaging out of 158 voters per Cornish constituency shows how profound the effect of second home voters might be. It has taken much badgering but credit where it’s due – the Council’s electoral staff, led by Richard Williams, have made a real effort to tackle the concerns we have been raising for some time now.

There is still more that can be done of course, especially in the national context. How many of those 947 people also cast a vote at their main residence elsewhere? It is currently impossible to tell, and it may well be that none of them did. Nevertheless there is a gap in the national procedures in this area. How difficult should it be for various local authorities to share information to ensure there is no multiple voting? Deputy Prime Minister, over to you.

Second Home Voter Registration – That Letter 11 December, 2010

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in News.
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You may recall the long-running saga of Cornwall Council’s efforts (and mostly the lack thereof) to tackle the issue of second home voter registration. I am happy to report that a couple of weeks ago, roughly five months after the Electoral Review Panel discussed the matter, a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister was dispatched on behalf of Kevin Lavery, Cornwall Council’s Chief Executive. For completeness, and in fairness to those at County Hall who have been criticised for a conspicuous lack of action, here is the text of the letter:

Dear Mr Clegg

Second Home Voter Registration

As Electoral Registration Officer for Cornwall I want to bring an important and urgent issue to your attention which is of concern to all Cornwall Councillors and which has been brought to a head during this year’s Annual Canvass.

I have set out in detail on the attached briefing note the confusing law and guidance on the registration of voters who own a second home.  This, of course, is a particularly acute problem in Cornwall that affects all electoral areas.

The Council’s elections staff have issued written advice to all households in Cornwall based on the Electoral Commission’s guidance but this has led to a number of disputes with second home owners.  The lack of clarity means that there may be some persons registered to vote who are not entitled to and others who have been denied the fundamental right to vote because they have not been registered when they should have been.

As Electoral Registration Officer I am looking for absolute certainty in this matter and the Briefing Note puts forward a possible solution which I hope you will consider seriously.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Lavery

Chief Executive

I won’t trouble you with the briefing note (although I’m happy to forward it to anyone who is interested) but it does cover the main areas of concern over voters registering at properties which are not their main place of residence.

I welcome the letter, although I can’t help but think it may have had a greater impact had it been sent at the beginning of July, when we originally instructed the Chief Executive to put pen to paper. As yet there is still no sign of any resolution to a serious problem which has the potential to cast real doubt over the fairness of Cornish elections.

(My thanks to Angus Lamond, who has pursued this matter tirelessly for some months now.)