Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Improvement in Electoral register fails to hide problems

24 January, 2007

Sinn Féin National Director of Elections, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has welcomed the news that nearly 41,000 people have been put back on the electoral register but added that it does not diminish serious concerns that thousands of people are still being disenfranchised.

Mr Doherty also raised specific concerns that people with both mental and physical disabilities were being denied the right to vote.

Mr Doherty said:

"When the draft register was recently published it was clear that thousands of people had been wiped off and would be denied the right to vote.

"Sinn Féin activists across the 6 counties have driven forward a massive registration campaign and are confident that thousands of people who had been wiped off the electoral register have now secured their democratic right to vote.

"However, we have very serious concerns that thousands of people are still being disenfranchised.

"Sinn Féin have consistently argued that people should be entitled to register up until 11 days before the election date and that given the huge number wiped off the register that there is also a strong case for the previous register to be rolled forward.

"In recent days our offices have been receiving a steady stream of calls from people complaining that the Electoral Office was again on to them seeking additional sources of ID. Given the fact that registration has now closed it is a mater of deep concern that while there has been significant progress in getting thousands of people back on the register that the Electoral Office rather than facilitating and assisting people in claiming their democratic entitlement instead appears to be putting more bureaucratic obstacles in the way of people trying to get on the register.

"There are also concerns that people with disabilities, particularly young people with learning difficulties, are being denied the right to vote. The parents of, and professionals who work with young adults with learning difficulties are saying that that their exclusion from voting represents an act of discrimination based on outdated values and misconceptions.

"While there is a clear understanding that special needs is a broad field ranging from severe complex and profound difficulties, to mild and moderate difficulties, the question of judging the ability of a person to make a choice, and who makes that decision is a key issue.

"There is a belief amongst many that the onus should be on the relevant authorities to remove the 'voting right' rather than on parents or guardians to prove that young people can vote. We should all have a vote and that right can only be removed in a very few specific cases. Unfortunately the current registration procedures have had a severe adverse impact on disadvantaged, marginalised and hard to reach groups." ENDS

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