The North’s latest electoral register has this year dropped 82,000 voters, with a dramatic reduction in the numbers of registered voters in nationalist areas.
The 7 per cent drop is reflected across all 18 constituencies but is most noticeable in the key nationalist seats.
Gerry Adams’s West Belfast constituency lost most, with 8,000 voters or over 15 per cent being dropped from the register.
In Derry, nearly 6,500 voters or 9.3 per cent have been eliminiated from the Foyle constituency register, while 10% of the electors have been eliminated in nationalist-held South Belfast.
The new register will be used for the scheduled Assembly election on March 7th next year.
The drop is the outworking of an apparent British disenfranchisement strategy directed at working-class communities, which required voters to re-register annually using bureaucratic government forms. The move was an obvious attempt to bolster the electoral fortunes of the SDLP and Ulster Unionist Party at the expense of Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Sinn Féin has voiced criticism of the strategy.
West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said: “We warned that this would happen when other people, including the SDLP and unionists, were lobbying for the legislation - that it would lead to people losing their right to vote.”
He added: “The precedent for the rollover of the electoral register has already been established when it was recognised that so many people were missing from the register for the last Westminster and local government elections that there was no other option but to use the previous register.
“Sinn Féin also believes people must be able to register up until much closer to the election. We believe that people should be able to register up until 11 days before the election.”
His concerns were also admitted by the SDLP. “The decline in registration seems steepest in the most disadvantaged areas. That means that it’s those most in need who are losing out on their right to vote. That has to be a real concern in any democracy,” said party representative Patricia Lewsley.
SOUTHERN VOTERS EXPUNGED
Meanwhile, huge discrepancies have appeared on the electoral register in the 26 Counties. Despite moves to upgrade the register, there are still at least 80,000 errors on the register, according to reports.
Sinn Féin activists have been calling door to door across the 26 Counties in an effort to ensure people have their democratic right to vote.
General Election candidate in Dublin North West Councillor Dessie Ellis expressed his outrage at the unfolding fiasco after finding hundreds of voters in his constituency who had been omitted from the new Draft Register.
“While people can get on the Supplementary Register until 15 days before an election, it is a more complicated process, so we are making a real effort in advance of the deadline to get as many people registered or re-registered as possible,” said Ellis.
The deadline for the normal registration procedure is now 9 December.
“We are very concerned that people who have been on the register for many years may now be deprived of their right to vote.
“We are particularly encouraging young people and new voters to get themselves onto the register. It is so important that everyone has their say in decision making in areas such as Health, Education, Housing and Transport.”