A Salford Conservative councillor has hit back at claims that ‘the Government made it harder for young people and ethnic minorities to vote’, calling the comment ‘absurd’ and ‘patronising’.
Labour councillor Kevin Peel told MM that by implementing the new Individual Electoral Registration last year ‘the Government have deliberately made it harder for young people, students, transient renters and ethnic minorities – all of whom are less likely to register – to vote’.
And Conservative Councillor Iain Lindley, a councillor for Worsley and Eccles South, strongly disagrees, explaining that the IER has been implemented to reduce fraud.
@MM_newsonline do you not think it is vile and patronising to suggest these groups are incapable of registering to vote?
— Iain Lindley (@cllrilindley) February 5, 2015
Mr Lindley told MM: “I think [his comments] are patently absurd and I think it’s extremely patronising to suggest that those groups are less able to register to vote.
“The Individual Electoral Registration has been brought in in order to try and reduce fraud and to try and make sure the registered electorate is as accurate as it can be.
“A similar system has been in operation in Northern Ireland for some time now and the Labour Party have never shown any interest in wanting to change it there.”
Mr Peel believes that the changes to the system, which require every person to register themselves individually and provide a national insurance number, are politically motivated.
But Mr Lindley accused him of scaremongering ahead of the general election and encouraged all local people to register to vote.
Mr Lindley added: “There’s obviously an election coming up and I think he’s trying to gain some political advantage by scaremongering about the new system.
“I want to see as many people as possible go out and vote, and register to vote.
“The National Voter Registration Day 2015 is a great initiative and I hope it gets a lot of people who haven’t registered to actually sign up, and I would encourage all local residents to do so.
“As a relatively young person myself and someone who was elected to Salford Council as a 21-year-old, I want to see all age groups voting, including young people, and I want to make sure that as politicians we engage with all age groups, whether that’s young people or older people.
“We need to make sure that we’re listening and speaking to everybody.”
Cllr Peel was quick to respond to Cllr Lindley’s argument and thinks the facts back up his claims.
Cllr Peel told MM: “Cllr Lindley’s words mask the truth of his government’s intentions. The fact is that the rollout of IER has been botched and poorly communicated.
“It is undeniable that only around 50% of 18-24 year olds are registered to vote, with lower registration also among ethnic minorities.
“For example, one impact of the change means university halls of residence can’t mass register students and so it is that much harder to get people to register and then to vote.
“If Cllr Lindley wants your readers to believe it is a coincidence that those groups least likely to vote for his party face an extra hurdle to vote then he’ll have to do a better job than this.”
In response to the decline in voter registration numbers, Bite the Ballot, a charity aiming to increase democratic participation by young people, is holding a UK wide registration drive dubbed National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) today.
To find out more about NVRD and how to get involved, click here.
Or for more information about voting or to register to vote online, click here.