Irish Republican News · November 14, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Flawed registration process

The revelation that 180,000 voters in the North have been disenfranchised highlights the discriminatory mess created by the Six-County Electoral Office. The introduction of restrictive new measures, and the attitude of the Office to accessibility and voter facilitation has ensured that while other voters are out having their say on 26 November, a very significant minority will be staying at home.

Registration is just one of the areas that has led to the loss of voting rights. Under the old system of household registration, one form was completed per home naming every individual entitled to vote at that address. Now, each voter has to complete a form personally each year.

As a result of the confusion this has caused, 180,000 people have lost their vote.

Another 36,000 will not be able to vote because of new ID regulations. In addition to these losses, Disability Action revealed on Wednesday that many of the over 300,000 people with disabilities are disenfranchised because of the hassle involved in using their vote. A study last year found that a shocking 50% of polling stations were deemed inaccessible.

The culmination of all this has led to young people in particular, especially first time voters, facing complete under-representation on the 26th.

At a time when democracies throughout the world are trying to counter voter apathy and are making it easier to vote, the Electoral Office's attitude regarding participation is profoundly undemocratic.

To the credit of Sinn Féin activists across the North, many of those removed from the register last year have managed to reclaim their vote through rolling registration. But this doesn't take away from the fact that the registration process is deeply flawed and needs radical change.

The restrictive registration measures pose many questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP. They ushered the legislation behind this through the British House of Commons without any regard for its consequences. They put their own narrow political agendas in front of the ordinary citizen and we can all now see the result.

These parties need to explain themselves to those 180,000 people who will now be denied their democratic rights and entitlements as a direct result of their position.

And the Electoral Office needs to explain to the countless others who will be prevented from voting, either through lack of ID, or being unable to access a polling station, why it has failed to provide them with their basic voting rights.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News