Online registration sees local electorate reach record high of 1.3m ahead of council poll
With voters due to go to the polls in this Thursday's local elections, Northern Ireland's eligible electorate has now reached a new high of more than 1.3 million.
A total of 819 candidates will be competing for 462 seats across 11 council districts on May 2 at a time when the number of registered voters here is at a record level.
Thursday's poll will be the first elections for which registering online has been an option and has led to the surge in voter numbers.
Electronic registration was rolled out here on June 18 last year, the aim being to make it even easier for people to register to vote.
The process takes less than five minutes and involves filling out some personal details in a short online form.
Paper registration forms are still available for those unable or unwilling to register to vote digitally, and can be returned to a local election office.
Around 80% of applications to vote i have been made online since the new system was introduced last summer.
Electronic registration has been available to voters in England, Scotland and Wales since 2014.
Five years ago at the last local elections, the eligible electorate was 1,243,649.
It has now risen to a figure of 1,305,553.
According to the Electoral Commission, overall across the UK more than half-a-million people have applied to register to vote in the upcoming local elections, 36% more than expected.
In the run-up to this week's poll the commission said 570,000 people applied to join the electoral register across England and Northern Ireland.
The target had been for 400,000 in England and 27,000 in Northern Ireland.
The Electoral Commission launched a 'Got 5' campaign earlier this year to encourage people not registered to vote to take five minutes to go online and do so before the April 12 deadline. In January of this year 7,500 online and paper applications were received here, which rose to over 19,000 the following month. Over 49,000 further registrations were submitted between March 9 and April 12.
Northern Ireland's Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea says voter registrations have risen substantially in the past 10 months. "We are certainly now looking at over 80% of people registering online to vote as they find it much easier and it only takes a couple of minutes," she said.
"We have indeed, as monitored by the Cabinet Office site, had unprecedented online applications to register - over 100,000 since the service began last June and more than 50,000 in advance of the local council elections. The new online system appears to be working well with very few complaints from people that they find it complicated, and the numbers availing of the service prove that."
Ms McVea added that the names of some deceased persons may still be on the register if the death occurred outside the jurisdiction.
"The General Registrar's office and Coroner's office provide the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland with details of deaths for removal," she said.
"This is only for deaths which occur within the jurisdiction.
"We do not receive the deaths data for deaths occurring in other countries and do rely on relatives to advise the office in those instances."