This weekend, Momentum will be beginning its ‘Democracy SOS’ project – a mass voter registration drive to combat the Tories’ partisan attempts to drive millions of people off the electoral roll.
Soon half of voters aged 18 to 24, who overwhelming support Labour and will be crucial to winning back dozens of seats in 2020, will drop off the electoral register due to IER reforms.
It is believed that the Tories’ individual electoral registration (IER) reforms mean that 1.9 million people could fall off the electoral register in under six weeks’ time. Momentum claim that a further 8 million adults may not be on the register at all, meaning that 10 million will not be able to use their vote in next May’s elections.
Gloria de Piero has been making the case this week, in her new Shadow Cabinet role as Minister for Young People and Voter Registration, and clearly knows where the non-voters are – in areas the Tories tend to punish:
We know what kinds of voters are more likely to be missing: they are private renters, people from BAME communities, the unemployed and lower-paid manual workers. But perhaps the greatest divide is between the older and the younger generation. Some 95% of over-65s are on the electoral register, yet the proportion of 18 to 24-year-olds is just 70%.
The issue, however, is that in the past these registration drives are as uninspiring and out of touch as the politicians on offer: see the Electoral Commission’s dull About My Vote website, or the National Union of Students’ #GenerationVote campaign.
Student unions are often reduced to running bizarre and quirky campaigns that are de-politicised and fail to make the case to students that the Tories will damage their interests significantly, although in the best cases they are encouraged to register by the university themselves, which in Sheffield has lead to 64% registered. It’s also important to note that if you are only encouraging a student to register to vote for a free cookie, or another freebie, then you haven’t inspired them to use their vote for the Labour Party.
This is then the key issue: voter registration campaigns must be explicitly political and centred around the same messages that you would use for an election campaign.
If Momentum can create and sustain a base reaching out to these groups, Corbyn will have a much easier job of getting would-be voters registered. The Party must organise campaigns in communities with low voter turnout that go beyond simply asking you to ‘use your democratic right’, and encourage people, especially the young, those in education, or those looking for work, to give themselves a better future by registering to vote – in order to vote Labour.