Today’s columnist, Louise Haigh MP: Don’t lose your voice

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Readers should by now have received a letter from the council detailing who is registered at your address and letting you know about crucial changes to the voter registration system.

You might think that these don’t affect you, perhaps that your vote doesn’t matter on its own, but sometimes elections can come down to a handful of votes – and there are other benefits of being on the electoral register.

If you want to have your say in who makes decisions that affect your local area, who represents you in Westminster or express your views in referendums, you need to register to vote.

This week I’ve been speaking to Sheffield College students about a generation neglected by the government precisely because they are less likely to be on the register to vote.

Furthermore, there is a wider impact on Sheffield – the fewer people on the register, the smaller Sheffield’s voice will be.

The government decide electoral boundaries based on how many people are on the electoral register, not how many people actually live in the area.

Generally, cities like ours – with a high rental population and a large number of students – are under-registered, with lots of people not on the register.

With a big boundary overhaul looming, it is so important that we make sure Sheffield is properly represented.

And did you know that registering to vote also improves your credit rating? So if you’re saving to buy a home or preparing to take out a loan, registering to vote is one of the few things that improves your credit rating.

In the last few months, I have spoken to many local residents who were not aware of the changes which have been introduced – meaning that each individual must complete a separate registration form, unlike the old system where only one form was needed for each household.

One benefit of the new system though, is that you can now register online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote – registering takes just two minutes.

Finally, because of the changes to the register it is very likely that many people in Sheffield may have fallen off the voter register so please check your letter carefully.

The changes might also mean that your postal vote (if you have one) may need updating – you can check with the local council if yours is up to date.