By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
In 2015 there were 44,722,000 registered to vote down from 45,325,100 the previous year.
The Office for National Statistics has shown that 603,000 less people are now able to vote in elections. This drastic reduction has led to claims that the Conservative party is trying to “rig the system.”
The 1.3 per cent fall has come after a change in the way voters put themselves on the electoral register. Supporters of the shake-up have argued that switching to individual voter registration would make it less vulnerable to fraud.
However, it has been claimed that the new system was rushed in to deny people a chance to vote and is another example of the Tories attacking UK democracy.
Under the new registration regime, people have to individually register themselves using their National Insurance number.
Before the changes took place, the head of a household, university administrators or care home managers could register everyone under living under one roof.
It is feared places with large student populations or with a large number of people in rented accommodation would be hit hardest.
Katie Ghose from the Electoral Reform Society chief executive said: “The constituencies which saw the biggest drop are largely student seats and deprived areas – groups which are already under-represented.”
The elections watchdog advised that the closing date for registrations should be extended, but Ministers ignored the advice and closed it in December, a whole year earlier than was planned.
The number of people registered to vote will be used at the basis of the redrawing of electoral boundaries, which will bring the number of constituencies down from 650 to 600. The Tories are assumed to benefit from the reduction in the number of voting areas.
Gloria De Piero Shadow Minister for Voter Registration said: “The Government are shamelessly taking this as an opportunity to redraw constituency boundaries based on an electorate that is far lower than it should be.
“This is another example of David Cameron and the Conservative Party trying to rig the system for their own political ends.
“They want to reduce by 50 the number of directly elected Members of Parliament under the guise of reducing the cost of politics, whilst cramming the Lords at taxpayers’ expense.
“This is all further evidence of their partisan plan to give the Tories an unfair advantage at the expense of democracy.”
Tom Brake Lib Dem MP said: “The Government ignored its own independent regulator of elections which was clear in its opposition to bringing forward the introduction date of this new system and Liberal Democrats warned that it would see hundreds of thousands fall off the voting register.”