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12 December 2002 Edition

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SF warns people have been disenfranchised

A Sinn Féin delegation met on Wednesday with the Electoral Commission in Belfast to discuss concerns at the large numbers of people across the North of Ireland who have been left disenfranchised by their omission from last week's newly published electoral register.

The Sinn Féin delegation included Sinn Féin's Mid Ulster Assembly member Francie Molloy, Sean Begley - West Tyrone representative and Danny Power, the party's Northern Director of Elections.

The party delegation said they had raised concerns regarding not only the flaws in the design and operation of the new registration system and the result of some 130,000+ potential voters not returning registration forms but also about the role of the Electoral Commission in raising awareness of the new system. "We are particularly concerned that as well the large numbers of people not returning forms, that potentially large numbers of new voters may not have received forms at all and therefore have not had the opportunity to register," said Francie Molloy.

The Sinn Féin delegation pressed the Electoral Commission to immediately act and to implement a series of measures to support the rolling registration process under which voters can be added to the new register on a monthly basis.

"We believe that both the Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission, who have a responsibility for voter awareness, need to implement a comprehensive publicity programme to address the imbalance and difficulties caused by this legislation and people allow people their democratic right to vote," said Molloy. "The publicity campaign launched by the Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission was wholly inadequate throughout the registration process and more use needs to be made of local publicity outlets."

The Sinn Féin delegation challenged the Electoral Commission to take a 'hands on' role in addressing the democratic deficit being created by this legislation and work with the political parties to address this situation.

"We believe that the Electoral Commission needs to develop a focused and determined campaign to facilitate the inclusion of young people onto the new electoral register," said Molloy.
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