26 February 2004 Edition
Register now for EU elections - Deadline is 8 April
People in the Six Counties have just 42 days left to submit applications to the electoral register if they want to vote in the upcoming European elections. Thursday 8 April has been named as the final day for registration, and in preparation for the day, Sinn Féin has launched a campaign asking people to 'Claim your Vote'.
The campaign intends to make sure that voters who are currently disenfranchised in the North, get back on the register in time for June's elections.
In 2002, the Electoral Fraud Act was introduced by the British Government into the Six Counties. It was aimed at removing actual and potential Sinn Féin voters from the electoral register. The success of the party in November's Assembly election proved that even this extreme measure from the British Government could not put a halt to Sinn Féin's electoral progress.
As a result of the new voting arrangements, however, 240,000 voters — 20% of the overall electorate in the Six Counties — could not vote in the last election.
As it stands, 211,000 people (16.5% of overall electorate) will not be able to vote in June. This is not simply a failure of the system to register people; this was designed to happen. The 2001 Census figures indicated that 1,280,480 people would be eligible to vote by 2004. Under the 2002 legislation, only 1,069,160 voters appear on the 2004 register. 211,000 people have been denied their vote.
The electoral legislation and the new practices that it sets out apply only to the Six Counties. They are completely out of step with practices in the rest of Britain and Ireland. In many ways, they are similar to the unionist gerrymandering practised in the North for much of the last century.
In a speech at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan when the new legislation was introduced, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams set out his analysis of this. This speech was in response to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who suspended the political institutions at the behest of the UUP, creating a political crisis which has deepened in the interim
"The British and the Irish establishments' version of the peace process had a different script from the one that has been written in recent years," Adams said. "The rise of Sinn Féin was not part of that script."
Make sure that you claim your vote before 8 April
• Register now
• Elect two nationalist MEPs in the forthcoming European election
• Vote for Irish unity in any future snap border poll
• Locate your national insurance number
• Ensure that individual voters in the household are available to sign the registration form.
• Ensure that everyone eligible to vote has the correct and current photo ID: passport, provisional or full driving license, Translink Senior passcard, official voter identification card.