A plan by the North’s Electoral Office to remove all registered voters from the Electoral Register has been condemned as outrageous by Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey.
After leading a Sinn Féin delegation in a meeting today with the Chief Electoral Officer, Virginia McVea, Mr Maskey said he had been informed of the plan to remove all voters from the electoral register this year.
“This is an absolutely unacceptable and, quite frankly, incredible action for the Electoral Office to even consider. It amounts to a mass purge of voters,” he said.
“It is a blatant attempt to suppress the votes of citizens right across the North of Ireland.”
Those wishing to maintain their vote will be required to fill out a form, one per household, with details of eligible residents of voting age. If heads of households do not return their form on time, those present could lose their votes.
The Electoral Office has said the process was needed to ensure “accuracy and completeness” of the register.
It is estimated the exercise could decimate the numbers of registered voters in republican and working-class areas, which are traditionally more reluctant to comply with British bureaucracy.
“The right to vote is something which had to be battled for,” said Mr Maskey.
“This proposed action has to be viewed as another attempt to take away votes from people, particularly those from working-class communities. In my view it is organised voter suppression by the NIO and the British Government.
“We are currently in the middle of a pandemic and the Chief Medical Officer has said it will be well into next year before the necessary restrictions are lifted.
“What the Electoral Office needs to do is implement new ways to make voting easier for people in an election in a pandemic situation. We need new processes to allow people to access and cast their votes in a safe manner that protects the health of all our citizens.
“Instead the Electoral Office are intent on removing everyone from the Electoral Register. This is totally unnecessary and the Electoral Office needs to urgently reconsider this decision.
“We will be challenging this robustly and protecting the voting rights of all citizens.”