Tag Archives: England

Surging Voter Registration in the United Kingdom

New Orleans      Here’s an interesting voter registration story, but it’s not in the United States, but the United Kingdom.  I had been hearing about this phenomenon for weeks whenever I spoke with our organizers in England.  ACORN was working on a specialized program before the coming snap election to register tenants.  Speaking over the last several weeks with Nick Ballard, head organizer of ACORN UK, he reported that one million registered in a week and then this week mentioned almost 250,000 in one day.  It could be a gamechanger.

The numbers are making news around the world, and they are significant.  As reported in The Independent,

“…according to the Electoral Reform Society. Before the final deadline at midnight on 26 November, there have been 3,191,193 applications to register in the period from the day the election was called on 29 October to midnight on Monday.  That’s an average of 114,000 per day.  The figure is 38 per cent higher than the 2,315,893 applications to register in a similar period in the 2017 election, which equated to an average of 68,000 registrations per day.

The sheer numbers alone are not the only reason that the registration surge could make a difference.  It is also “who” is registering that catches your eye.  The Independent notes that

“The Electoral Reform Society said that of the applications made since the election was called in October, so far 2,125,064 applications (67 per cent of the total) were made by people aged 34 or under.  And as the cut-off for registration grows closer, an even greater proportion of young people are registering. On Monday (November 25th), 366,443 people applied to register, with 72 per cent of applications from people aged 34 or under.

No one believes that this tsunami of youth registration is a good sign for the Conservatives or the Brexiteers.

The snap election was called as the Conservatives led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to force Brexit, the exit of Britain from the European Union, to a “hard” departure without an agreement with the Brussels.  Through various efforts both fair and foul, Johnson had tried to fast walk the mess through Parliament, even hornswoggling the Queen at different points, and was finally forced to an election to determine who represents the majority in the country, the Conservatives and their allies or the Labour and theirs.  Much is at stake not only within the EU, but whether Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in the United Kingdom as well.

In this context, young voters are critical, because their opposition to Brexit has been most intense there, while support has been strongest over 65.  In the United States our experience is that first time registrants are more likely to vote than others, so for the Conservatives this is worth worry.

The picture isn’t clear though.  The Election Commission says one-million registrants might be duplicates, because, if anything, the database in the UK is worse than the state by state patchwork quilt we have here.  Furthermore, the majority of cumulative votes could go with Labour, but like the US Electoral College, what matters is the vote in each constituency in Parliament, since that will determine whether Johnson and the Conservatives get their mandate to mayhem and rule or their walking papers.

Two more weeks will tell the story.  Registration is now history.  The vote will be worth watching.

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West Virginia Teachers and English University Workers

banners for the ACORN Brighton branch

Brighton    One of the undercurrents of my long slough across Europe and the United Kingdom has been the close attention and excitement roused by the West Virginia teachers and their dramatic, and ultimately successful, strike.  In Bulgaria, one of our number was from West Virginia and first called the plan to my attention as the first of a kind in his state where teachers without even a collective bargaining agreement had decided to take action after being offered an insulting one-percent raise for each of five consecutive years along with an increase in health insurance benefits that would decimate any of those proposed legislative increases.  Given that West Virginia teachers and school workers are always in the race for lowest paid in the country with states in the deep South, the fact that they were saying “enough is enough” was inspiration in and of itself.

Originally, we had heard the plan was for a two-day strike, then more days began to be added on, and I began to follow the whole affair more and more closely, as the teachers’ conviction seemed to be deepening.  When they rejected a negotiated deal between the governor and union leaders that would have given them more money – as well as all state employees – because both houses of the legislature had not agreed and the insurance mess was still not resolved, then I could tell we were watching some real freedom fighters that would change the state of West Virginia and perhaps more.  Finally, they won a 5% increase and the package they needed from the Governor and legislative leaders.  Mossbacks that threatened that they would balance the state budget for the wage increases by taking it out of Medicaid, essentially trying to punish the poor to upbraid their own workers, the Governor had to assure the teachers that this would never happen.

screening and meeting in Brighton Friends’ Meeting House

Part of the reason the strike was being followed so closely in recent days was because many university employees have started a rolling strike in England.  Several of our members in Sheffield had to leave as soon as the screening ended because they had picket line duty the next day.  In Brighton last night ACORN leaders were buzzing and running out to make calls and catch the news since several worked as administrative staff at Sussex and other area universities.  The issue here has been a proposal to change the pension from a defined benefit to a defined contribution scheme, which many have no doubt accurately calculated would cost them thousands of pounds now and even more in lost benefits in the future.  61 of more than 100 universities are participating, and the tactic thus far has been one day out the first week, two the second, three the third, and so on, and now preparation for a week-long strike in coming days.

people filing in

Will they win?  Hard to say, but they want to be West Virginians now, and many are hoping that these pushbacks by labor at the grassroots rank-and-file are a sign of change in the labor movement and a message to employers and politicians everywhere that working families are now drawing the line.

briefing after the Q&A on upcoming ACORN meetings and events

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