Newry voters disenfranchised
BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY
Hundreds of voters in Newry/South Armagh could be struck off the electoral register after it emerged that voter registration forms have not been received or were being delivered too late.
The pink electoral forms were due to have reached every household by last Saturday. But hundreds of voters in the Newry/South Armagh stretch have not seen any sign of them.
If the forms are not returned, people will not be permitted to vote in next May's council elections and may also be denied the right to vote in the next general elections.
``In some cases, in an estate of 100 houses, only 20 homes have received the forms'', said Charlie Casey, Sinn Féin Newry chairperson. ``Other people are receiving them so late that they have not had time to fill them in.''
So far there have been no reports of any missing forms in other areas in the same constituency.
In another worrying development, electoral forms have been delivered among junk mail. ``Some people, not realising their significance, have thrown them away'', added Casey.
On top of all the current problems, it has also emerged that the representatives of the Electoral Office have turned up on the doorsteps with no spare forms to replace those that were not sent out.
Charlie Casey has appealed to all voters in the area to ensure they have received and filled in the form. ``People must ensure that this form is handed to the Electoral Office workers who are currently canvassing the area,'' he said.
``This incompetence is unacceptable. There is a risk that people who don't realise they have to fill in these forms could be disenfranchised.
``The complications are bringing about a situation where people are running the risk of being struck off the electoral roll without knowing it. Effectively, hundreds of people are being discouraged to vote.''
The Electoral Office has acknowledged the problems. An investigation is said to have started into why the forms have not been delivered or why they have been delivered too late.
Inconsistencies in the electoral registration process have been of major concern in Newry for some time. Various problems, of which delays in the delivery of registration forms is just one, had already been encountered last year. And while the population in the town of Newry is booming, the number of people registered to vote sunk to under 14,000 for the first time last year.
Sinn Féin is appealing to people who have not received pink electoral forms or who have doubts about whether they are on the electoral register to contact their nearest Sinn Féin office.