Cornwall has become the first county in England to BAN holiday home owners from voting in local elections.
The strict new rule went through full council on Tuesday morning.
It means no-one who owns a ‘purely recreational’ house in the Duchy can vote for local councillors, or a local MP.
The second-home-voting veto is a first in Britain.
It was passed by Cornwall’s electoral review panel after years of political pressure from local MP Dan Rogerson and Lib Dem councillors.
The MP for North Cornwall said holiday home owners had been swinging Cornish elections and he was ‘delighted’ the electoral register would now be ‘clean’.
Mr Rogerson said: “I’m delighted that Cornwall Council has agreed the new measures which I have been campaigning for for a number of years.
“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.”
He went on: “Around one in twenty households across Cornwall is a second home and owners receive a council tax discount.
“With that number of properties, the potential additional voters could have been enough to swing almost any election.
“We know that a large number of second home users did register to vote and so it is possible that they have already swung an election.”
“Cornwall Council’s first step was to ask second home owners to consider registration.
“But asking nicely was never going to be the answer to a problem like this and so we pressed for a more robust solution and this has now been delivered.”
The MP said he hoped the council could make a clean sweep of it for the next election by wiping any ‘purely recreational’ votes off the map in time.
He said: “With more than 18 months until the council elections, I hope that the council will have time to carry out the necessary works to ensure a clean register for all future elections.”
Lib Dem deputy leader Alex Folkes said of the groundbreaking ban: “It’s a first in the UK. It has been quite contentious and is very significant.
“Cornwall is now leading the way on this and I know that other counties, for instance Dorset, are looking closely at what we’re doing.”
He explained: “Cornish elections should be for people who have a genuine stake in Cornwall, not people who visit for a week or a few weeks a year.
“But at the moment people are registering to vote at their second homes in Cornwall.
“There’s been a lot of concern from local people for some time over the potential influence second homes owners could have on elections.
“A holiday home owner could say: “Well I don’t want to vote in my dead safe seat in central London, I’ll vote in a marginal in, say, Port Isaac.
“That’s the extreme example.
“On the other hand there are people who legitimately have two homes: MPs for instance.
“The new rule allows us to identify virtually all second homes because they claim the 20 per-cent council tax discount.
“And if we get applications from the owners to go on the electoral roll at these properties, we can subject that to a review.”
The ruling means someone with two homes can argue, as part of a ‘Type B Review’, that they are enough a part of the Cornish community to vote at election-time.
But anyone who just comes down for the Summer is likely to be banned.
Cllr Folkes went on: “All of the constituencies in Cornwall are marginal.
“Although we don’t have any evidence, it could be that second home voting has affected results.
“There are many thousands who in the past could have registered and might have influenced an election – so that’s all possible.
“Exactly what effect it had in the past we don’t know yet – because we don’t know how many voted, or of course who they voted for.
“But we felt strongly enough about it to put the issue on the agenda for the electoral review panel a year ago.
“We initially said second home owners should be denied the right to register to vote.
“We also sent a letter to the cabinet office – that got passed from pillar to post in council for seven months, but that’s over now.
“The Government replied and said they felt the law was clear enough.
“Tuesday’s ruling means we now have something that allows us to accept the applications as they come in and really look at them.
“We had written to second home owners in the past asking them not to sign on the electoral register and had quite a few replies.
“But we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Rules on voting in British elections are not as clear as many might believe.
An MP for example, or anyone with two homes, can vote in two sets of local elections if they fall on the same day.
But no-one can vote twice in a general election, referendum, or the European elections.