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1 April 2004 Edition

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Are you registered yet?

As the 8 April deadline for registering to vote in the Six Counties approaches, Sinn Féin is issuing a final appeal to all republicans to ensure that they have re-registered with the Electoral Office for the upcoming European elections.

"We really need to stress the importance of people being registered," says Sinn Féin's Director of Elections, Seán Begley. "We want to ensure that people will have the right to vote in the European elections, and there is only a week to go before the cut off. This is the last chance for voters to register and claim their right to vote."

Last year, in a blatant abuse of the democratic process, the British government introduced restrictive electoral legislation for the Six Counties primarily aimed at trying to ring fence the growth of the Sinn Féin vote.

The controversial statute only applies to elections held in the Six Counties and discriminates against all political constituencies. People in "disadvantaged" areas, the elderly, first time voters and those with physical and learning disabilities were particularly affected by the changes.

As a result of the legislation, 20% of the entire electorate found themselves ineligible to vote in the Assembly elections last November. At least 211,000 people were excluded from the Electoral Register, with a further 30,000 eligible voters refused the right to vote due to new photographic identification requirements.

Since the November elections Sinn Féin has met repeatedly with both the Electoral Commission and the Human Rights Commission to protest the law. Alongside this, the party has launched a billboard and leaflet campaign to inform voters of upcoming deadlines and changes to the registration process.

It only takes a minute to claim your right to vote. Ring your local Electoral Office or call the helpline at 90 339955.

Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin will today lead a party delegation to meeting with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Belfast as part of the ongoing series of meetings Sinn Féin is having with a broad section of society in a bid to get this issue resolved.

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