Registered voters to stay on register
Registered voters to stay on register

The British government is to scrap the practice of making voters in the North register every year for elections.

In a written Commons statement, British minister John Spellar admitted that it had had “a negative impact”.

“There are concerns across the political spectrum that the requirement on voters to re-register and provide their personal identifiers afresh each year is leading to a downward drift in the overall numbers registered,” he told the British parliament.

With local government and parliamentary elections due to take place in the next year, only the most determined voter could satisfy the difficult annual registration requirements.

Some 210,000 people were disenfrachised in the process, apparently designed to limit the numbers of working class voters in order to boost the SDLP and Ulster Unionist parties.

In the next cull, up to 25,000 voters could be removed from the electoral register in West Belfast alone when it is published tomorrow.

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said the issue was a key one for Sinn Féin which had been reaised directly within the current negotiations.

He called for the measure to be put in place in advance of the planned May elections.

“We have consistently said that the primary legislation itself needs amended and the parliamentary time for this to happen needs to be found as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“The current electoral legislation was introduced in particular at the behest of the SDLP and the unionists. It has resulted in tens of thousands of people being disenfranchised and the annual shredding of the electoral register.

“One of the most important aspects of today’s announcement is the acceptance by the British government that the current arrangements are fundamentally flawed, undemocratic and need to be changed.”

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