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Assembly to debate electoral registration concerns

23 March, 2009 - by Martina Anderson MEP


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has urged all parties to back a Sinn Féin motion highlighting the difficulties people are experiencing when trying to register to vote and calling for the registration process to be simplified.   An independent survey carried out 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.   In its last annual report the Electoral Office identified almost 200,000 people who are entitled to vote but who are not on the electoral register.   Ms de Brún said:   “The concern is that the Electoral Office is not doing all it can or should to ensure that everyone entitled to vote can. I am also concerned that people entitled to vote are also being forced off the live register by the approach adopted by the Chief Electoral Officer. People moving home or those living in what the Electoral Office describes as homes with high numbers of adults registered are facing particular difficulties.    “In its last annual report the Electoral Office identified almost 200,000 people who are entitled to vote but who are not on the electoral register. If we are going to address this democratic deficit then we need to see the registration process simplified. Yet, Douglas Bain is making it harder for people to get on the register by asking them to jump through unnecessary and unreasonable bureaucratic hoops.    “The documentation and letters from the Electoral Office are often overly complicated and threatening and the decision to seek additional information in all cases, despite the fact that all applicants submit personal identifiers and sign a declaration, acts as a further barrier.   “It is easier to register in Birmingham, Alabama than it is here. All you need to do in Alabama is fill in an electoral registration form and send it in. Here, even after filling in a registration form and providing significant personal information people are still being denied their right to be on the register.     “I have also highlighted concerns that Irish citizens are being discriminated against. British citizens can register as overseas voters but Irish citizens are denied the same right. This is clearly contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and must be addressed.” ENDS   Note to Editors   Assembly motion to be debated on Monday 23rd March - Voting Registration Process   That this Assembly notes with concern the difficulties that many people, particularly young people, are experiencing when trying to register to vote; further notes that the Chief Electoral Officer has decided to seek additional information in all cases, despite the fact that all applicants submit personal identifiers and sign a declaration; and calls on the Secretary of State and the Electoral Office to simplify the registration process as a matter of urgency.   [Mr D McKay] [Mr P Doherty]

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