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2 December 2004 Edition

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Brits scrap annual registration

On Tuesday, in a major u-turn, British Minister John Spellar announced that he intends to reinstate the 'carry forward' provision that was in effect before legislation requiring annual registration for Six-County voters was passed in 2002.

On Wednesday morning, the latest Six-County electoral register was published, making clear just why Sinn Féin's campaign against the flawed legislation was necessary. The register shows a further significant drop in the numbers of people registered, this time of over 21,500 since February 2004.

Sinn Féin National Director of Elections Pat Doherty said the fall in the numbers on the register again demonstrates the deep flaws in the current system, which has disenfranchised so many and was one of the issues raised by Sinn Féin during the current political negotiations.

"Since May 2002, when the new legislation came into effect, over 200,000 people have been disenfranchised," said the West Tyrone MP, who pointed out that the legislation had been introduced by the British Government "with the full support and encouragement of the SDLP".

"Yesterday's announcement by John Spellar that he intends to reinstate the carry forward provision will help in a small way to alleviate this problem, but it is vital that this provision is introduced well in advance of the May elections. However, given the recognition by the British Government that the current system is deeply flawed, there needs even more fundamental legislative change.

"Yesterday's announcement from the British Government came after a long running Sinn Féin campaign and the introduction by our negotiating team of the issue into the political talks.

"Sinn Féin will be compiling a detailed breakdown of the register published today and this will provide part of a submission we intend to make to the minister in the coming period. This will propose specific legislative changes and demonstrate other electoral models which have been demonstrated to work effectively in other countries.

"Sinn Féin will work with the British Government and the local electoral authorities to try and see introduced a system that guarantees the right of citizens to vote and that undoes the massive damage to the confidence of the electorate that has resulted in the debacle of the past two years."

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