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People should not be intimidated or confused by the Electoral Office

25 January, 2009 - by Barry McElduff

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff has said that no-one should feel intimidated or be left confused by the latest initiative from the Electoral Office.

He was speaking after the Electoral Office began a campaign targeting households with high numbers of adults on the electoral register with letters that 'invite' people to ask for their registration to be 'reviewed'.

Mr McElduff said:

"In its last annual report the Electoral Office identified almost 200,000 people who are entitled to vote but are not on the electoral register. Given this major democratic deficit Sinn Fein believe that the Electoral Office needs to focus much more on how to get those people who are not registered to vote onto the electoral register.

"However, there is a very real concern that the latest campaign targeting households where there are, in the view of the Electoral Office, high numbers of adults registered will mean that many people who have a right to vote will end up being forced off the register.

"Given the history of this state and the denial of the democratic rights of Catholics for generations the attempt to target larger households in this way raises many fundamental questions about the Electoral Office. The demographics of the north show that for significant periods Catholic families were larger and there is a concern that this Electoral Office initiative will disproportionately target Catholic households.

"The truth is that particularly in the current economic situation that many young adults, especially from working class communities, do not have the resources to leave the parental home.

"The letters being sent to households are also confusing and repeatedly raise the issue of hearings despite electoral courts being abolished.

"In effect, the Electoral Office is asking citizens who are already registered to vote, to write back to the Electoral Office to ask them to review their registration. This is disgraceful.

"I believe that many people getting these letters will simply be turned off, or worse be intimidated by the language and as a result lose their right to vote. Anyone with any concerns about any attempt to deny them the right to vote should contact Sinn Féin.

"Despite repeated claims from the head of the Electoral Office, Douglas Bain, that they are doing all they can it is now harder than ever for people who are entitled to vote to get on the electoral register.

"An independent survey carried by the Electoral Commission showed that the electoral registers here were 94.3% accurate - this is widely accepted as the most accurate anywhere in Ireland or Britain. Yet still the Electoral Office appears to put a greater emphasis on initiatives that may result in people who are entitled to vote being forced off the register instead of getting the almost 200,000 people who are not able to vote onto the register." ENDS

Note to Editors

The independent survey carried by the Electoral Commission showed that the electoral registers published on January 1 2007 were 94.3% accurate.

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