Sinn Féin - On Your Side

McGuinness - Claim The Right To Vote

11 February, 2004

At the launch of his party's electoral registration campaign today in Belfast, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP was joined by MLAs Conor Murphy and Caitriona Ruane.

Mr McGuinness accused the British government of 'engaging in blatant electoral fraud through the disenfranchisement of up to 250,000 people in the six counties'. Mr McGuinness also put forward a number of recommendations to restore confidence in the electoral process and encouraged people to claim their vote.

Mr. McGuinness said:

"In May 2002 the British government introduced legislation which has resulted in the disenfranchisement of over 200,000 voters. This legislation was supported by both the SDLP and the UUP.

"The measures contained in the legislation were presented as designed to counter electoral fraud. The reality is that they are nothing more that discriminatory measures aimed at electors in the north with the purpose of manipulating the electoral register.

"The objective of this legislation was to remove nationalists and republicans from the Electoral Register. The effect has been to deprive almost 250,000 people of their right to vote. These people must now make their voices heard. They must now reclaim their democratic rights by getting back onto the register.

"This situation is totally undemocratic. Under this legislation the electoral register will continue to be shredded year upon year. The legislation particularly targets those living in disadvantaged areas, the elderly, the young, those with disabilities and those with learning problems.

"This is a clear case of electoral fraud by the British government. The denial of the basic right to vote is a core issue, particularly when we are attempting to establish the primacy of politics in the north.

"To this end we are proposing a series of measures which if adopted would go some way to restoring confidence in the electoral process." ENDS

Summary of Sinn Féin Proposals

  1. Household Registration should replace the new Individual Registration scheme. This would require amending legislation.
  2. Voter Registration should take place every 5 years instead of the new arrangement which requires voters to register every year or lose their right to vote.
  3. Photographic and non-photographic forms of personal identification should be acceptable. These should include:
  • Irish, British and European passports;
  • Irish, British and European driving licences including provisional driving licences;
  • The range of government agency issued benefit books;
  • Translink Senior Travelpasses;
  • Student and Trades Union membership cards;
  • Official voter identification;
  • Marriage license if married within the previous 2 years.

The Electoral Office should continue to provide mobile photographic booths across the north of Ireland to facilitate the provision if official Electoral Photographic Identification.

1. Registration forms should be made widely available to the general public. They should be made available on-line and at Post Offices, Council offices, libraries, advice centres, schools, colleges, universities and through political parties.

2. Electoral courts should be abolished. The personal identifier requirements supplied in the registration form should be sufficient proof of identification and validation of an application.

6. Registration should be allowed up to 7 days before polling day.


Editor's Note

Census Figures 2001 and the Register of Electors

Shredding the Vote

16.5% of Electorate not registered to vote

Eligible to Vote 2004 1,280,480

Registered to vote 2004 1,069,160

Shortfall 2004 211,320

Shortfall as a percentage of the eligible vote 16.5%

The Census '01 and the Register of Electors

Census 2001 figures indicated the following:

  • Eligible to vote at that time 1,233,753
  • The number of young people to reach voting age between '01-'04 104,727
  • The sub-total of the above is 1,338,480
  • Approximately 58,000 names have been removed from the register due to deaths between '01 and '04 58,000
  • New sub-total eligible to vote 2004 - 1,280,480
  • Registered to vote 2004 - 1,069,160
  • Shortfall as between those eligible to vote and those registered to vote 211,320

Register of Electors '01-'04

  • November 2001 - 1,198,504
  • September 2003 - 1,097,551
  • February 2004 - 1,069,160

Shredding the Vote

The February '04 Register of Electors shows a reduction of:

  • 28,391 on the September '03 Register
  • 129,344 on the November '01 Register
  • 211,000 on the adjusted Census figures of '01

A pattern of annual reductions has been set in place by the new legislation.

Photographic Identification

  • Photographic ID: In addition to the above 30,000 people were denied the right to vote in the 2nd Assembly Elections because of the photographic ID requirements.
  • "There are approximately 30,000 people who, if they turn out to vote, would not have the applicable ID.

Séamus Magee, Head of the Electoral Commission 25/11/03



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