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23 January 2003 Edition

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Electoral Officer must explain registration failure

Sinn Féin Councillors on six local councils, Belfast, Cookstown, Derry, Fermanagh, Newry & Mourne and Omagh, are to requisition a special meeting to discuss the failure of the Electoral Office to fulfil its task to ensure the registration of all those entitled to vote.

Speaking at a Belfast press conference on Wednesday, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said that the Electoral Register issued in December 2002 shows that 130,000 people across the north have been wiped off the register used in the last election. Furthermore the Census, published in the same month, shows that 187,683 people eligible to be on the electoral register do not appear.

"This is 15.6% of the 1.2 million people who are entitled to be on the register that are not registered," said McGuinness. "A massive number of people are going to be disenfranchised if this prevails.

"Sinn Féin is asking councils to call upon the Chief Electoral Officer to attend a special meeting to explain the failure of his office to register almost 190,000 people," said McGuinness. "This is a mess of gigantic proportions and citizens of every political persuasion will be disenfranchised."

The party is calling on the Electoral Officer to set up registration clinics in community and leisure centres, take steps to inform all those who have been included in the current register, canvass everyone who has been excluded and launch a publicity campaign to encourage them to register.

"The Electoral Office should also work with schools and universities to ensure that young and first time voters are encouraged to register," said McGuinness.

The matter had been raised with both the British and Irish governments, the Sinn Féin former minister told the media.

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