Voter Registration

MQT on 2015-10-21
Session date: 
October 21, 2015
Question By: 
Onkar Sahota
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Have you had any discussions with the Greater London Returning Officer about steps being taken to inform Londoners of the Government's changes to Voter Registration?

Supplementary Questions: 


Answer for Voter Registration

Answer for Voter Registration

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes.  Thanks, Onkar.  It is very important to tackle voter registration fraud and that is what the Government has been trying to do and it has been moving away from the system of the head-of-household approach to individual voter registration, which is clearly less susceptible to some of the types of misbehaviour that we have seen in some elections.  That should be completed by December of this year and I hope very much that the electoral registration offices and the Government is getting the message out that that is how it is happening and that is how it is to be done. 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  I presume that your answer is that you have had no discussions yourself.  My question was: have you had discussions?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  No.  I have not had discussions with the ‑‑

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):   Greater London Returning Officer (GLRO).

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  The GLRO is Jeff [Jeff Jacobs, GLA Head of Paid Service] ‑‑

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Yes.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ to the best of my knowledge.  I have not specifically discussed this with Jeff but I am told that his team are working with the boroughs and the Electoral Commission to deliver a targeted and effective voter information campaign so everyone understands how they have to register ahead of the May 2016 election.

As you would expect, because you want it to be politically neutral, it is the Electoral Commission that will inform Londoners, interact with Londoners and maximise voter registration.

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  I am glad you say that.  The Electoral Commission recommended that the transition to individual electoral registration should be up to 1 December 2016 and the Government brought it forward to 1 December 2015.  In fact Phil Thompson, the Head of Research at the Electoral Commission, has said:

“We are disappointed with this decision.  We made a clear recommendation it should remain as 1 December 2016.  The consequence of moving this forward will be that 250,000 people will fall to the electoral register in London.”

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Why is that?  Why can they not register themselves? 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  They are not aware of this phasing out and no one is bringing this to attention.  That is why I am concerned about the fact.  Why has the Government moved it forward?  What is the reason behind it?  What are we doing about it - what are you as Mayor doing about it - to make sure that 250,000 do not fall off the electoral register?  That is why I asked the question. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  What we are trying to do is avoid a situation in which heads of households have been known to fill in perhaps slightly more generously or imaginatively the names of the people who form the complement of the household and that is true ‑‑

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  You said that the Electoral Commission was an independent body. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is true and I will not say that it has entirely been to the benefit of the Labour Party but it is possible that it has been a factor. 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  This is supposition. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Irrespective of whichever political party ‑‑

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No.  Can I get us back to the question? 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  Yes, the question was, Mr Mayor ‑‑

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No.  Assembly Members ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We are trying to avoid voter fraud. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No, it is not voter fraud.  The question is quite clear and you have answered it.  The question asked whether or not you had had any discussions with the GLRO about steps being taken, and you clearly said, no, you have not.

Can I have a follow-up to that?  It is not in this place that the Mayor is to take questions on particular Government plans as it is and we know that the GLRO is Jeff Jacobs where Members can put questions to their leaders to the GLRO?  Can I have a follow-up question to the answer? 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  OK, Mr Mayor, given that 250,000 people will be falling off the electoral register and there is a mayoral election next year alone ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Why is that?  I do not understand why that is the case. 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  This is the estimate of the Electoral Commission.  Given that this will happen and we have a mayoral election next year, what steps are you taking as Mayor of London to make sure that this impact is reduced? 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  As the Chair has just said, it is open to all of us to talk to Jeff as the GLRO.  Nobody wants people to fall off the electoral roll and he is going to be working with the Electoral Commission to have a targeted voter registration campaign before May 2016 so that the people you are worried about and everybody who might conceivably not be aware of the changes has the chance to register themselves and not be just inscribed on a household list truly or falsely by someone other than themselves.  That is a reasonable way to treat adult voters in this country. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Can I suggest to Dr Sahota that what we can do is refer this question for follow-up from the GLRO at the proper meeting place if that is OK with you? 

Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  Thank you.