Poll tax lost voters reappear

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The Independent Online
Britain's"disappeared ones" have returned. Nearly 500,000 people - many of whom wanted to avoid paying poll tax - have returned to the electoral register since 1991, giving a boost to Labour's chances of forming the next government. Figures compiled from all the electoral rolls in the country by a private company, GB Mailing Systems, show that this year a record total of more than 44 million people will be eligible to vote in the general and local elections.

Although poll tax was abolished four years ago, its effects have lingered. At one time or another, as many as three million people may have disappeared from the electoral register.

Their return is likely to be good news for Labour, Bob Worcester, chairman of MORI, the opinion poll company, said. "There's a bias in Labour's favour among the unemployed and working classes, who are the people we could assume would be coming back to the electoral roll now."

Young people, who were also likely to stay off the register to avoid paying poll tax, have a definite bias towards Labour, says MORI. It recently found support among the 18-24 age group running at 64 per cent for Labour and 21 per cent for the Conservatives.

The poll tax, introduced to Scotland in 1989 and in the rest of Britain in 1990, obliged councils to impose a flat charge on every adult, regardless of income. Many councils used the electoral roll to build their tax lists. MORI estimated that up to 5 per cent of eligible voters did not register in order to avoid paying.