One in every dozen homes in South Tyneside has no adults registered to vote in next week’s elections.
There are 70,696 properties in the borough, and 5,847 have no one registered to vote in either the general or local elections on Thursday, May 7.
I always say there’s not many things in life you get for free, but the chance to vote is one of these free things.Coun Jim Foreman
Coun Jim Foreman, a Labour representative for the Cleadon Park ward in South Shields, says he is shocked that potentially up to 12,000 people are missing out on having their say on what happens in the borough or whether David Cameron will still be running the country from next month onwards or if he will be replaced by Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage or another challenger.
He believes that while some properties will be empty, and some may house people not eligible to vote through their nationalities, the vast majority of absenteeism is down to those concerned not being on the electoral register.
Coun Foreman said: “I am shocked it’s that many, to be honest. I work on the basis that there are at least two voters per home, so that’s potentially up to 12,000 people who won’t be voting.
“In Cleadon Park and Harton Moor, we found there were 186 properties with no voters attached, and only 10 of these were empty. The rest were all home to British residents.
“To be honest, apart from South Tyneside College’s overseas students, I can’t imagine there are that many homes within the borough that have no British people residing in them, so I don’t think that many of the properties can be attributed to this factor.
“Within the Cleadon Park ward there has obviously been the regeneration project going on, and a lot of people have just moved into their new homes, so registering has probably slipped there mind.
“But voting is the main way that people can make a change to their community, especially on a local level.”
Coun Foreman thinks that one of the reasons there are so many houses with no voters registered could be the changes made to the electoral register last year.
Last July, the individual electoral register (IER) was launched, making everyone responsible for their own registration, as opposed to the head of the household registering everyone, as was previously the case.
Nationally, voters were contacted by local electoral registration officers to inform them of what, if anything, they needed to do next.
Under the new system, about 80 per cent of those already on the electoral register were automatically added to the IER.
However, those who were not matched against existing government records needed to provide additional information.
It’s these people Coun Foreman believes may have slipped through the net.
He said: “Let’s be honest. If there’s something going on in your life, whether it’s work issues, perhaps a family member is unwell, then applying to vote is probably not one of your main priorities.
“For these things to sink in, people do need to be reminded quite a few times before they actually do it.
“I just hope that those who have missed out this time, make sure they register in time for the next election.
“I always say there’s not many things in life you get for free, but the chance to vote is one of those free things, and people should make the most of it.
“I think the change of legislation has thrown people slightly, but people need to realise that their vote does count and the party that they vote for can have an impact on the local community and, of course, nationally.”