Belfast Telegraph

General Election: The Northern Ireland non-voters who could transform electoral landscape

Thousands of votes are being left on the table in Northern Ireland.
Thousands of votes are being left on the table in Northern Ireland.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Thousands of non-voters in Northern Ireland and those not registered to vote could potentially transform the political landscape of Northern Ireland, if they took part in elections.

New analysis has revealed the extent of non-voters across Northern Ireland - with all but one of the 18 constituencies having more people registered to vote that don’t take part than the number of people that elect the winning politician.

The Electoral Commission has also revealed that one in four people in Northern Ireland are not on the electoral register.

Are you one of Northern Ireland's non-voters? Contact us with your reasons at digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland Cahir Hughes urged people to register before the deadline of Tuesday November 26.

“As we get closer to the election it is vital that everyone in Northern Ireland is able to have their say," he said.

“It only takes five minutes to register to vote online – time that you might otherwise spend waiting for the kettle to boil or for a bus to arrive. So if you want to make sure your voice is heard and you’re not already registered, go online and register now.”

Analysis of Electoral Commission data of those that vote coupled with the number of spoiled and rejected ballot papers shows the extent of the non-voting public.

The only Northern Ireland constituency in which the MP's majority is higher than the number of non-voters is in the Sinn Fein stronghold of West Belfast which was held by Paul Maskey.

He was re-elected in the 2017 General Election with 27,107 votes, a majority of 21,652 over the DUP's Frank McCoubrey.

That was still only slightly more than the amount of non-voters in the constituency by just 59.

Of the 62,423 voters registered in West Belfast, only 40,830 turned out on election day, leaving 21,593 non-voters.

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Elisha McCallion

The 2017 General Election in Foyle gave Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion a majority of just 169 votes over the SDLP's Mark Durkan.

However, 24,188 people in the Foyle constituency who were registered to vote did not take part in the election.

Mrs McCallion received a total of 18,256 votes.

There is no way to accurately predict who non-voters would have backed, but it is safe to assume 24,188 votes would have made a significant difference in a constituency where the winner had a majority of 169.

The lowest turnout in the 2017 General Election was in North Down.

Independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon won a 1,208 majority over the DUP's Alex Easton.

There were 25,066 non-voters in the constituency, with just 39,268 of 64,334 registered voters taking part.

While Lady Hermon won 16,148 votes, over 25,000 were left on the table.

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Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Joe Giddens/PA)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a massive voter registration drive ahead of the election on December 12.

"To achieve real change, I’m calling on people to take just five minutes to get registered so they can make sure that their voice is heard," he said.

"Over nine million eligible voters are still not registered to vote. We want to make the next five days the biggest voter registration drive that our country has ever seen."

Anyone wishing to register to vote can do so online at www.gov.uk/registertovote  

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