05 August 2005

Annual vote roll may be dropped

BBC

The government has published plans to drop the requirement for a new electoral register to be compiled in Northern Ireland every year.

The measure - introduced to combat electoral fraud - has been criticised by those who believe it has reduced the number of people entitled to vote.

Instead the Chief Electoral Officer can decide when the roll needs refreshing.

It is also proposed that people should be able to get on the register up until 11 days before an election.

The current cut-off point is nearer to six weeks.

A new elections bill to be put before parliament next year will also deal with the controversial question of donations to political parties.

A consultation paper published on Friday suggests that - in contrast to the rest of the UK - Irish citizens will continue to be allowed to donate to parties in the province.

The government is still keeping its options open about whether party donors should be allowed to remain anonymous if they have security concerns.

Sinn Fein's national director of elections Pat Doherty MP welcomed the consultation paper and its proposals.

"It is a recognition that the current arrangements are deeply flawed and need urgent change," he said.

"Annual registration has proven to be a complete disaster. Public confidence in the electoral system needs to be rebuilt and it is my hope that today's paper can be the first step along this road."

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