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Goggins recognises need to defend right to vote

1 April, 2009

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty speaking after meeting with British Minister Paul Goggins has welcomed the engagement on the need to defend the right of all citizens to vote.

Mr Doherty was speaking after a party delegation meet with Paul Goggins to discuss a number of concerns about the approach of the Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain to ensuring that everyone entitled to vote can get on the electoral register without having to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops.

Mr Doherty said:

“We all have a role to play in defending the democratic right of all citizens to vote. I welcome agreement from Paul Goggins to look a number of areas that are of concern because of the way that they make it more difficult for people who are entitled to vote to get on the electoral register.

“I also raised serious concerns at the way in which the Electoral Office is interpreting the identification requirements and particularly the implications of the Electoral Office questioning of the legitimacy of people living in larger households because it does not comply with its’ criteria for what constitutes an average family.

“We also made it clear to Paul Goggins that the denial of the right of Irish citizens living abroad to register as overseas voters on the same basis as British citizens is a clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement which recognises the rights of both British and Irish passports holders.

“The objective must be to ensure that everyone entitled to vote can register without having to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops. In terms of the Electoral Office this mean ensuring that the register is both accurate and comprehensive. Yet when we have a situation where the accuracy is very good yet the almost 200,000 people are not on the register who should be then there is clearly a problem.

“We are concerned at the number of people who are being removed from or are finding it difficult to get on the Electoral Register because of the multiple pieces of identification being demanded by the Electoral Office. Instead of making it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their democratic right to vote the Electoral Office should be seeking ways in which to simplify the process.”

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