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Thousands stand to lose out as row rumbles on

SF urges ‘tick the NI box’

By Ciara Quinn

A Sinn Féin MLA is calling on would-be voters to tick a controversial part of the new electoral registration forms or else they will be left without a vote in the next election.

It’s emerged that  thousands of forms have been returned to the Electoral Office without part of the form being filled in.

The relevant part of the form it states: ‘I have lived in Northern Ireland for three months prior to  October 15 2013’ and asks the person to tick the box as part of the completion exercise.

Without the residency box filled in, the form is deemed invalid and returned to the homeowner. It’s believed that the vast majority of those who haven’t ticked the box are nationalists reluctant to use the term ‘Northern Ireland’.

The Electoral Office has told the Andersonstown News that the question will not be included on forms from next year on.

In the meantime, West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley, is urging everyone to tick the box – despite the terminology – ahead of the September 27 deadline.

Ms McCorley said: “We would encourage people to tick the Northern Ireland box as we don’t want people to be disenfranchised over not ticking a box,” she said.

“Being on the electoral register is important and not just for voting, there are positive reasons to be on it – buying a house, a car or even a mobile phone, for instance. We would prefer that terminology is used that people feel comfortable with but we are urging people to not disenfranchise themselves.”

Asked about forms that are returned to homes and again not completed, she said: “It is my understanding that they will be not processed.”

“The deadline for the electoral forms is September 27 but I have been given assurances by the    Electoral Commission that they will revisit non-responders from October 5th to the 19th. People should not assume that they are already on the register.”

A spokesperson for the Electoral Office said: “Section 4(2) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 states: The person completing the form must verify that they have been resident in Northern Ireland for the three months prior to the qualifying date of 15 October and we are legally obliged to include this statement in the form.

“In 2014 the residency requirement will be abolished so this statement will no longer be included in the form.”

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