Anonymous voting proposed
Vulnerable people in Northern Ireland, including well known members of the security forces, may be able to vote anonymously without the risk of being traced via the electoral register under fresh proposals, it has been disclosed.
About 2,500 individuals could be eligible for secrecy in time for next year's European elections. There are concerns they may be endangered if details like home addresses remained publicly accessible, the Government said.
Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister Mike Penning said: "I believe that vulnerable people in Northern Ireland should receive the same protection as those in Great Britain. But it's important that this protection is balanced against the need to ensure transparency in the electoral process and retain protection against electoral fraud.
"The draft legislation I am publishing today would extend anonymous registration to Northern Ireland. It makes minor changes to some aspects of the electoral process here to ensure the identities of individuals particularly at risk are protected at all stages of the voting process."
The law would permit anonymous registration for five years. Those covered would vote by post because the use of identity checks at polling stations means a ballot paper cannot be obtained without photographic identification.
The Government expects the legislation to come into force by next June, applying to polls to the UK parliament, Northern Ireland assembly, European parliament and local councils.