Outrage at electoral registration legal case
Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has called on the Head of the Electoral Office Douglas Bain to reassess his approach to voter registration after the arrest of a 68 year old man for electoral fraud because of a failure to provide a National Insurance Number.
The Antrim man, Ian Withers, was fined only 1p after a district judge at Antrim Magistrates Court described the case as 'appalling' on Tuesday.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"The idea that a 68 year old is arrested, charged with electoral fraud and then hounded through the courts by Douglas Bain highlights a need for the Chief Electoral Officer to seriously reappraise his approach to registration.
"It is widely accepted that there is very little electoral fraud here but at the same time it is widely known that there are thousands of people who have been taken off the register and denied their right to vote.
"The fact that it is easier to register in Birmingham, Alabama than it is here should send out warning signals. All you need to do in Alabama to get on the register 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 been denied their place on the register.
"There are serious concerns that the Electoral Office is not doing all it can or should be doing to ensure that everyone who is entitled to vote is on the live register. Indeed there are growing concerns that Douglas Bain is making it harder for people who are entitled to vote to get on the register and is systematically removing people, such as those in larger households, from the register.
"There is very real concern that a 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 Nationalists being denied the right to vote for generations any attempt to make it harder to vote or to force people off the register raises serious questions about the Electoral Office." ENDS
Note to Editors
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.
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.