Cornwall Council rules that second-home owners should lose their voting rights - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Cornwall Council rules that second-home owners should lose their voting rights

Saturday, 10 September 2011
In an extraordinary move, Councillors in Cornwall are set to withhold voting rights for local, national and European elections from persons who have homes in the region that they use solely as their second home.

Around one in 20 homes across Cornwall is a second home, and some politicians in the region are worried that second-home owners who try to vote in the county rather than where they live permanently could can swing parliamentary and council elections. Yesterday, in a decision made without debate (CC/566) the council has made a strict interpretation of the law that now means no one will be able to enrol on their electoral register unless they can prove the county is their main home.

Under Cornwall's new "type B review", all electoral roll applications will be checked against a register of people who are receiving a second homes council tax discount. An application from a second-home owner could then be vetoed by officials if it was felt they only spend holidays in Cornwall.

The move follows the authority writing to thousands of second-home owners warning they are breaking the law if they vote twice. The "nudge" proved successful as almost 1,000 people volunteered to come off the electoral roll.

It is believed Cornwall is the first county to take such action and other places with many second homes are said to be watching what happens before deciding whether to follow suit. Devon and Dorset in particular are home to a large number of second-home owners.

The Conservative-led council described it as a "significant" move. Alex Folkes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: "By making it harder for second-home owners to register to vote, we will be upholding the law that limits voting rights to people who actually live in an area."

"We'll see how this works. Will people be willing to sacrifice their council tax discount in order to retain the right to vote? I doubt it."

Richard Williams, Cornwall Council's head of electoral services, said: "Councillors in Cornwall feel strongly that electors should only vote when and where they are entitled to and that second-home owners already have a chance to vote in the area of their main residence. Cornwall has a high number of second homes and members of the council's electoral review panel have been working closely with elections staff to identify ways of tightening up the existing system."

The move would also remove voting rights for second-home owners in relation to participating in European elections, the next of which is scheduled for 2014.

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