In just seven days, almost 300,000 people rush to join the Northern Ireland electoral register
Almost 300,000 people have already registered to vote under a major drive to update the electoral register, Northern Ireland’s chief electoral officer has said.
A province-wide Electoral Office canvass began on July 1, and flyers will be going out to every address in Northern Ireland to remind householders to register.
People have until December 1 to register but already 197,000 people have done so online and an estimated 90,000 others have done so by post.
Using other information held by government, the Electoral Office estimates that there are about 1.45 million eligible electors in Northern Ireland.
If that estimate is correct, then it means that about 20% of the eligible electorate has registered to vote in the space of just seven days.
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To vote in elections it is necessary to be on the electoral register.
Sinn Féin attacked the plan in February, with West Belfast MP Paul Maskey describing it as “unacceptable” during a pandemic.
Despite the review being a legal requirement to ensure the electoral register is accurate, Mr Maskey claimed it was “organised voter suppression” by the Northern Ireland Office – and allegation which drew derision from many of Sinn Féin’s rivals.
Chief electoral officer Virginia McVea said: “By law everyone, whether on the register before or not, needs to register – you can apply online via www.gov.uk/register-to-vote in a few minutes.”
She said that forms could be posted to those without access to the internet but that submitting the details online was preferable because it ensured accuracy and reduced the need for problems such as unsigned forms being submitted.
Six items of information are required to register: name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, nationality and a tick box on whether the individual wants to be on the edited register.
Over 75s who have been on the register will get a pre-populated form to their home but they can still choose to apply online instead.
Housing Executive tenants who have been on the register will also get a pre-populated form sent to their home.
Ms McVea said the her office intended to send canvassers to the homes of those who have not responded, but that this will probably not happen until September.
How to secure your vote
There are two main ways to register to vote:
1) You can register online via www.gov.uk/register-to-vote, which the Electoral Office says is the quickest and easiest way to register.
2) If you are unable to register online, you will need to complete a paper registration form and return it to the Electoral Office. The form can be downloaded below or contact us and we will post one out to you.
For more information, the Electoral Office helpline can be contacted on 028 9044 6680, or can be emailed at info [at] eoni.org.uk.
There will also be static canvass kiosks, largely on council premises across 47 wards where data shows the lowest levels of response historically.
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