Second home owners in Cornwall will face an additional hurdle before being able to vote in elections in Cornwall. That was the decision made today by the Council's Electoral Review Panel and which will now be recommended to full council for approval.
There has been concern for some time that second home owners are registering and voting in Cornwall when they should not be. The legal position is that homes which are owned purely for recreational reasons should not carry an entitlement to vote - but that has not been enforced in Cornwall until recently.
Of the 13,576 registered second homes, 2,653 were used as a base for electoral registration until last year. During the last annual canvass (the procedure that creates the new electoral register), a note was sent to all householders reminding them of the law. Some 947 households that had previously registered chose not to this time. That's a good start, but the Council still took the view that anyone who filled in the form correctly still had to be included on the register.
So we asked what more we could do. A legal opinion confirmed that we cannot simply refuse to register properties which are listed as second homes (ie they claim a discount on their council tax). But what we can do is carry out further checks and if people do not provide enough proof or do not respond to the Council's requests then they will be removed from the register.
That's a huge step in the right direction and should ensure that the vast majority of second home owners who should not be on the electoral register are removed during the next registration period. It will involve a lot of hard work for elections staff, but these are some of the best in the country and I'm confident they can do so. But with police commissioner elections next year and Cornwall Council and parish and town elections in 2013, the cleaning up of our register can't come soon enough.