The mystery of the missing Cornish voters

We’ve yet to see the results of the new system for registering electors. The switch this year from household to individual registration has been widely forecast to result in the loss of up to a million voters from the registers. In particular, it will affect students and the more transient – other young people and the poor. Oh, that happens to be just the groups who don’t tend to vote Conservative. What a coincidence!

But even under the old system something very strange has been going on in Cornwall in recent years. Between the 2010 general election to the 2014 euro elections 10,000 voters in Cornwall disappeared off the electoral registers. For comparison, here’s the change across the constituent nations of the UK during that period. (The source is the Electoral Commission)

electors 10-14

This starkly contrasts with the pattern between the 2005 to 2010 general elections.

electorate change 05-10

Given a continuing population rise of around 6-7% a decade, the growth from 2005 to 2010 in Cornwall looks to be twice as fast as it ought to have been. Meanwhile, the fall since 2010 is entirely unexpected.

Percentage fall in voters from 2010 to 2014
Percentage fall in voters from 2010 to 2014

If the most recent constituency level data of a year ago are compared with 2010 we find that, while all Cornish constituencies lost voters, the biggest drop was in North Cornwall, where the number fell by almost 4,500. The fall was also significantly large in South East Cornwall and lowest in Camborne and Redruth (just 20 fewer voters).

Is this puzzle connected with the registration of second home owners therefore?

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4 thoughts on “The mystery of the missing Cornish voters

  1. Hello Bernard,

    Second home owner de-registration ? Maybe – 4 years ago the usual anti-Cornish organs were vexed about a correction of the register https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%22electoral+register%22+%22north+cornwall%22

    dear ubm. (Foremost in their fulminations is North Cornwall coincidentally, where your largest drop (-6.6%) is mentioned.)

    Gonn meur ras dhe’n wiasva parliament ha Google, because we find that a question was asked in the House of Commons on this topic: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2014-06-26/202758/

    The hon member for SW Devon kindly responded with a clear answer. Comparing this with population stats for the 10 most reduced Electoral Register-ially corrected Local Authority areas ( http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-294277 ) it d’seem that Cornwall was not, per capita, the most cleaned-up in the UK. I’m going by my sum in the right-most column (reduction per population, which at 3% matches your figure.)

    Local Authority|electoral reduction| population| Reduction / population

    Maidstone -10121 152445 -0.07
    Newham -16617 306009 -0.05
    East Devon -6424 129528 -0.05
    Northampton -10309 208463 -0.05
    Shropshire -14350 298183 -0.05
    Renfrewshire -7693 172717 -0.04
    Barnet -12743 352597 -0.04
    Leeds -24119 731373 -0.03
    Cornwall -13195 523432 -0.03
    Birmingham -20572 1051366 -0.02

    If the electoral registers were compared, and missing addresses matched against the civil parishes with known high absentee ownership, that might help answer your question definitively. Mes res yw dhymm mos mes moy seulabrys, ha ny’n gwrav ow honan.

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    • Not tentative at all, Peter, I think you’ve nailed it. I should have done a little more research before launching into ‘print’. However, this all raises another more interesting question. Around 9,700 voters were lost net from the registers between 2010 and 2014. But in that period, given population growth we might expect an increase of around 11,000, so the gross loss was more like 20,000. The last official council tax database figures (Nov 2012) suggested 14,440 second home owners claiming council tax relief. So either the official figures seriously understimated the scale of second home ownership and/or second home owners had an exceptionally high registration rate and/or there are other groups falling off the registers.

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  2. Mmm, that’s pretty opaque.

    I can’t think of any particular who would be falling off, unless younger, new, voters in Cornwall are not getting added to the register lately, for some reason (?).

    If there’s any electoral register data available with (presumably anonymous) demographic data (such as age) attached, that’d be useful to check. Joins of various data sets could be used to produce same. It wouldn’t be a surprise if research people, like those slightly creepy survey companies who ticked you off backlong about their stats, have plenty of information grained that finely.

    Mystery, spuz.

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