Tag Archives: United Kingdom

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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Ending No-Fault Evictions in England

New Orleans    ACORN has been in the headlines in the United Kingdom recently heralding the end of something called Section 21.  It’s worth understanding fully, because this is a huge win for tenants and spells the end for so-called “no-fault” evictions which were poison for private renters and candy for the landlords.

As the The Guardian explains:

“The government will consult on abolishing section 21 evictions in England, meaning private landlords would no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason.  Currently landlords have the right to get rid of tenants with as little as eight weeks notice after a fixed-term contract has ended. The government said that section 21, which is notoriously hard to challenge, had become one of the leading causes of family homelessness.

Prime Minister Theresa May took a break from the Brexit disaster to announce the consultation as she tried to respond to the housing crisis for tenants in the country and shore up her declining support and seeming disinterest in domestic affairs.

The change was the result of a lengthy campaign across the country.  In the final stages, ACORN was part of the End Unfair Evictions Coalition that also included our long time allies Generation Rent and the New Economics Foundation along with the London Tenants Union.  A petition of 50,000 and the support of numerous local governments was key.  ACORN “said the change should not be seen as ‘a gift from a benevolent government’ but the result of a long-fought campaign by organised tenants.”

More than four million households or eleven million people are now renters.  Shelter, although not part of the campaign, noted that “one in five of families who rent privately have moved at least three times in the last five years, and one in 10 say that a private landlord or letting agent has thrown their belongings out and changed the locks.”  Citizen Advice, another nonprofit not involved in the campaign, “suggested that tenants who made a formal complaint about their landlord or the state of their rented home had a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice in the following six months.”

Next step for ACORN is pushing the consultations to a quick conclusion.  The organization is beefing up its ability to handle section 8 evictions when they come with a recently added “defense coordinator” in the main Bristol headquarters.

As The Guardian tried to forecast the future,

Under the proposals, landlords seeking to evict tenants would have to use the section 8 process, which can be implemented when a tenant has fallen into rent arrears, has been involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour or has broken terms of the rent agreement, such as damaging the property.  Ministers have said they will amend the section eight process to allow it to be used by landlords if they want to sell the property or move back in themselves. Unlike section 21, tenants can challenge section eight evictions in court.

This victory doesn’t end the war, just changes the battleground for ACORN, so that at least we will be fighting on more even ground for tenants.

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