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Concerns raised over Electoral Office plans to roll out online registration in Northern Ireland

Published 20/07/2016

The Electoral Office plans to move towards digitised registration subject to consultation
The Electoral Office plans to move towards digitised registration subject to consultation

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott has has voiced concerns at plans to roll out online voter registration in Northern Ireland.

The service is already available to voters in Britain. However Mr Elliott said he was concerned at the potential for fraudulent activity and closure of regional offices.

Mr Elliott questioned the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office, Kris Hopkins MP, about the proposals in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP said: "With regard to the proposed changes to electoral registration in Northern Ireland, there is great anxiety regarding the proposed closure of regional offices in Ballymena, Banbridge, Londonderry, Newtownabbey, Newtownards and Omagh, and the potential negative impact this will have on the those seeking to register to vote.

"The Electoral Office plans to move towards digitised registration, and although this is currently subject to consultation, it appears the Government’s has all but decided to proceed with this change.

"While I support the principle of online registration, I do have some concerns with how it might work in practice in Northern Ireland. Today I took the opportunity to bring these concerns to the attention of Kris Hopkins MP.

"I believe there is a very real possibility that the proposed digital registration in Northern Ireland could be subject to fraud and manipulation by criminal and terrorist elements. On many occasions in our local history those involved in terrorism have attempted to subvert the democratic process.

"I therefore caution the Electoral Office and the Northern Ireland Office to think very carefully about the particular circumstances in Northern Ireland which do not exist in other parts of the United Kingdom, and which may require additional precautions to be put in place prior to its introduction.

"The Home Office will be acutely aware of the active terrorist and criminal groups within our society. We must ensure that any future changes to electoral registration do not provide an open goal for terrorism to subvert our electoral system."

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