Rolling registration threatens loss of youth voice in vote

Young people in West Belfast are being encouraged to register to vote in a new campaign.
It is feared that many young people will lose their entitlement to vote because they will not be registered before the Rolling Registration scheme closes on March 13, 2005.
People not registered by the March date will be disenfranchised for the local and Westminster elections, expected to be held on May 5.
The campaign is being spearheaded by both the Falls Community Council and the Electoral Commission.
Steven Corr, Political Affairs Coordinator with the Falls Community Council, is concerned at the extent of the problem.
“The December 2004 register showed that throughout the six counties the projected number of people of voting age who would not be on the register had risen to 236,218. This is a massive growth in the number of people not eligible to vote. In West Belfast the number runs into tens of thousands.”
NIO minister John Spellar has made proposals to address the issues of the register shortfall but Steven Corr believes they are insufficient.
“Spellar has proposed marrying two registers so that people who were on the 2003 register, but not the 2004 register, could be included for this year’s elections.
“However, this does not include the 210,000 people missing from the 2003 register and the thousands of young people who will be 18 by May of this year.
“Spellar made his proposals but nothing has followed on from it. The legislation hasn't been passed to make it official and the election is just over three months away. His proposals, even if they are implemented, make no provisions for first-time voters. In some wards of West Belfast not even one first time voter came onto the register in the December 2004 figures.”
To help remedy the problem of people absent from the register, the FCC along with the Electoral Commission will be holding a Registration Week between February 21 and 26. This will involve visits to all the local secondary and grammar schools as well as visiting the local BIFHE colleges.
“We will also be setting up registration stalls in the FCC offices as well as local shopping centres. Invitations have gone out to political parties throughout the constituency and we are planning to dramatically increase the percentage of young people eligible to vote come the May 2005 elections,” said Steven Corr.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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