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Is the Shredding of the Register by the Electoral office professional incompetence or something worse?

21 January, 2004

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane MLA has quested if the shredding of the register by the Electoral Office is professional incompetence or something worse?

Ms Ruane said:

"The Chief Electoral Officer for the north, Denis Stanley said at a recent meeting organised by the Electoral Commission to review last November's Assembly election, that the situation with regard to registration will get "progressively worse" and that the number of people registered annually will continue to fall.

"Sinn Féin said from the outset that the new legislation governing lead to people being denied the right to vote. This has been borne out by the fact that the electoral register issued in December 2002 shows that 130,000 people across the North who were on the June 2002 register were not on the December register. 64% of young people, 17-18 year olds who were on the census in 2001 failed to get on the register.Census figures released by the government agency, NISRA show that another 57,683 voters across the North and eligible to be included on the Register did not appear.

"The question needs to be asked - Is this professional incompetence or is it something much worse?

"The electoral office constantly argues that there is rolling registration — The rolling registering process is a joke. It is obvious to everyone that they are putting block after block to stop people registering.

· Forms are given to people, if there is the slightest little error it is sent back

· Electoral hearings are organised at inaccessible times

· Force people to go to venues far away and in areas where they feel unsafe.

"Sinn Féin are urging people to get registered, we will be doing a door to door registration campaign throughout the six counties beginning in February, when the register reopens. This is part and parcel of the battle for equality and human rights.

"This situation is set to get worse because of the difficulties created by the new legislation. It should be immediately replaced with legislation that is designed to help not hinder people registering. The household registration scheme used in previous elections should replace the current system and Photographic ID centres should be located in all District Council offices and opened daily.

"Political parties who supported the electoral fraud act from its inception should review their position on it and demand changes. In England, Scotland and Wales there are voter awareness programmes and the search for ways in which to get more people voting. Here, in the North of Ireland it would appear that there have been considerable steps to disenfranchise people. The question is why?

"The Electoral Office should carry out focused canvasses targeting those areas particularly affected by registration difficulties and particularly groups that have been badly affected such as young people, people with learning difficulties and areas of social and economic deprivation.

"The Electoral Office should also jointly establish, with the Electoral Commission, pilot schemes to assist them in targeting those areas badly affected by the new registration system. The current legislation prohibits setting up such pilots despite the fact that they are used in England." ENDS

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