Election loophole to close for 'second-homers' in Westcountry
The Government has promised to crack down on holiday home owners potentially swinging elections amid fears of influencing votes in the Westcountry.
A senior minister has announced part-time residents will be asked to reveal other properties they live in when applying to be on the local electoral register.
At present, the only way local authorities can strike multiple homeowners off the electoral roll is through the second home council tax discount, which is set to be abolished.
It is illegal to vote twice in a general election, though not in local votes, but holiday homeowners are registered where they are only a part-time resident.
Electoral Commission guidance says multiple homeowners should only be on more than one electoral roll if they split their time between two residences equally.
With high second home ownership, Cornwall and Devon are at risk of temporary residents having a key role in knife-edge votes, critics complain.
North Devon Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson has led the campaign to ensure only people that live in a community are allowed to vote in elections in that area.
In the House of Commons this week, Cabinet Office Minister Mark Harper revealed electoral registration application forms would be re-drawn to ask the question.
Mr Rogerson said: "I am delighted that the government has listened to our campaign on giving councils the tools they need to ensure that only people who actually live in an area get to vote there.
"We will also be able to check that those people who are allowed to be on more than one electoral register are only actually voting in one place at a general election.
"Local people have said to me how annoyed they are at those who live elsewhere but who own property in Cornwall have managed to vote in elections here in the past.
"I hope that these changes will stop that in the future."
A number of MPs cling on to tiny Parliamentary majorities. Mr Rogerson has said that at the Cornwall Council's inaugural elections in 2009 owners of second or holiday homes were "targeted in a particular way to get them out to vote".
The change emerged as a Bill to change the way people register to vote – moving from the current system of registering together as a household, to a new system of individual electoral registration – was debated.
Mr Harper said legislation will include a provision that an application form for registration "must ask for other addresses at which the applicant is resident".
He added: "That will mean that registration officers can then perform checks to ensure that the applicant is genuinely resident there.
"It is not about owning property there; it is about being resident there. If they are, they should be able to be registered to vote there in accordance with the law and not otherwise.
"We will need to design the paper forms carefully so that we do not make them too complicated and user-unfriendly, and the Electoral Commission will do so."