Almost 70,000 Birmingham voters have dropped off the electoral register since a strict new system was introduced – prompting fears of widespread vote fraud.
Until the changes brought in by the Government, one person in a household was responsible for registering everyone who lived at the address.
But now each individual must register separately if they wish to exercise their democratic right.
Now the Post can reveal that under the new system a total of 69,828 have disappeared – sparking concerns many were wrongly registered in the first place.
A large number are students who have either left Birmingham or are no longer able to register in a home town and university town at the same time.
And in Selly Oak a total of 5,861 voters, the highest in the city, have been removed with the vast majority of students from the University of Birmingham.
Some more are likely to be as a result of population turnover, people who have moved away from the city since last year. But there are sill many more who are unaccounted for and now a Birmingham MP is calling for an investigation.
Yardley MP John Hemming led the successful landmark postal vote fraud case which saw six Labour councillors sacked in 2005 and has long argued the illegal practice, while not as widespread as ten years ago, continues in the city.
He suggested that, given the history of fraud, it was likely the new individual voter registration has weeded out a number of illegally registered voters.
Mr Hemming said: “ The largest numbers appear because there is a large turnover of electors. Furthermore just because someone has not automatically registered does not mean that they do not exist.
“However, there have been a lot of strange entries on the city council’s election register in the past and personation has been proven to happen in Birmingham in recent years.
“We do really need to take attempts to defraud the elections seriously and these figures warrant further investigation.”
Personation is where an individual pretends to be someone else to steal their vote. The figures show a higher drop-off in inner-city wards, including Aston and Bordesley Green, where postal vote fraud was previously proven to have taken place on ‘an industrial scale’.
Local Government expert Chris Game said student turnover was clearly a factor but added there was not enough information on which to draw any further conclusion. But he added: “Part of the purpose of individual voter registration is to cut down on fraud.”
The city council said there was a variation between the levels in different wards but added this did not demonstrate evidence of fraud.
A spokesman said: “We are doing constant comparisons with the other core cities and our match rates do compare favourably and our figures are being replicated elsewhere and this was expected as the inner city wards do tend to have a tendency to have a greater proportion of harder to reach groups.”
He said registration data could be matched with the Department for Work and Pensions if suspicions are aroused.
He added: “No one, to date, has been able to supply any evidence of fraud, which we do ask parties to provide if they have any suspicions, which you would expect if it was done on such a large scale.”
The Electoral Commission also stated that some of the drop-off was simply a result of out-of-date information on either the historic electoral register or the DWP database.
The elections watchdog says on its website: “The variation in matching results is, in part, related to varying levels of population mobility because in areas with higher population mobility there is a greater chance that either the electoral register or the DWP database will contain out-of-date information.”