[Sinn Fein]

28th March 2002

``New registration rules will deter voters'' - Ó Caoláin

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that new rules for registration of voters on the Supplementary Register of Electors are a ``bureaucratic nightmare'' and that they will deter people from registering to vote. He said:

``The Department of the Environment and Local Government has today issued regulations arising out of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2002 which was rushed through the Oireachtas last week.

``The new law means that those people entitled to vote but not on the register can now only have their names added to the Supplementary Register if they complete a nine-question form and have a Certificate of Identity signed, dated and stamped by a Garda in a Garda Station. The Garda may request photographic identification. The applicant must then present the documentation to their local authority in person or by post.

``If the applicant is unable to attend the Garda station he or she must present in person a written explanation along with their application at the local authority office where their identity certificate must be verified. People who cannot attend either the Garda station or the local authority must accompany their forms with medical certificates.

``This is a bureaucratic nightmare. Many thousands of people are omitted from the register through errors by the local authorities. These people are now to be penalised and are required to fulfil conditions which do not apply to other voters. Faced with this paper chase, I believe many people entitled to be on the register will be deterred from making their application and will lose their right to vote. Large numbers of people do not possess photographic identification and these regulations will disenfranchise them.

``If the Minister for the Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey believed that the Supplementary Register was being abused then he could have introduced a simple regulation whereby all voters on the Supplementary Register would be required to present identification at their polling station. Already all voters must produce ID if so requested.

``The Minister has now placed further obstacles in the way of people exercising their right to vote and has added greatly to the burden of work on the gardai and the local authorities.''

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