Northern Ireland

Chief electoral officer vows to press ahead with review of voting register

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea
Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea

THE chief electoral officer has said she plans to press ahead with a review of the voting register later this year despite Sinn Féin claims that it is a "mass purge of voters".

The canvassing of households to update the electoral register is legally required but the exercise was delayed last year due to the Covid pandemic.

People who do not return their forms on time will be removed from the register.

After meeting Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea last week, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said there was a plan to "remove all voters from the electoral register this year".

He described the move as "absolutely unacceptable".

Mr Maskey called on the Electoral Office to "make voting easier for people in an election in a pandemic situation".

“We need new processes to allow people to access and cast their votes in a safe manner that protects the health of all our citizens," he said.

But Ms McVea said canvassing was necessary by law so the public could be assured that those receiving a vote in elections are eligible.

"By law, the canvass must open at the start of July and remain open until the end of November," she said.

"It takes under five minutes to apply online and those who need a paper application can be sent one."

The chief electoral officer said her office would contact households with advice and an advertisement campaign would also provide information and reminders.

"Although we encourage everyone to apply during canvass so that our register is as accurate and complete as possible, we would assure the public that they may apply as they ordinarily would at any time afterwards," she added.