AS WEST Belfast gets set go to the polls on March 2 it’s been revealed that nearly 6,000 voters in the constituency have been removed from the electoral register.
Over 60,000 people were removed from the register across the north, but West Belfast had a higher number of people removed compared to any other constituency. The number here almost doubled the amount of registration removals in some constituencies, and there were over 1,000 more people removed than in North Belfast, where the second highest number was recorded.
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “A total of 60,433 names were removed from the electoral register on 1 December 2016. These were the names of people who did not return an electoral registration form during the last canvass of electors in 2013.
“Following this canvass a total of 112,013 names were retained on the register despite not returning a registration form. They were retained on the register after the canvass given that scheduled elections took place between 2014 and 2016.
“However, the law required that anyone who had not completed a registration form during this time must be removed by 1 December 2016.”
Those who have been removed from the register have until February 14 to register for the Assembly elections. Party representatives have been urging people to ensure that they are registered to vote in the upcoming election, and have been working to resolve the issue.
Paul Maskey said he would be meeting with Chief Electoral Officer Graeme Shields on Friday to address “major concerns” about the amount of people removed from the register.
The Sinn Féin MP hit out at the Electoral Office for their decision to remove so many voters and claimed that many constituents were unaware that they had been removed from the register.
“It’s unfair and undemocratic to remove so many people from the register, especially six weeks before an election,” he insisted. “I have met some of the people who have been removed and they said that they have had no correspondence. We will be asking the Electoral Office to put them back on the register.”
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said: “It is vital that we have a complete register as soon as possible for elections. I would encourage people to contact the Electoral Office to see if they are still on the register.”
Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn supported her party colleague in his criticism of the Electoral Office and urged them to act now to mitigate the effects of the decision.
“It is a disgrace,” she said. “At a time when it is difficult to motivate people to vote the Electoral Office have placed a huge obstacle in their way.
“I am calling on the Electoral Office to play their part in helping people to vote in this election. They should immediately re-register all those they have taken off the register.
“They should work closely with all the parties to ensure those who want to vote are capable of doing so,” she added.