News that the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland is to canvass all households this summer, for the first time since 2013 and a year later than planned, in order to update the electoral register – unlike the rest of the UK which has an annual canvass process – has the Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, reaching for a page from the Donald Trump electioneering playbook. From the BBC report
The canvass is legally required by the UK government, but Mr Maskey described it as “organised voter suppression” by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
A spokesperson for the government dismissed the suggestion as untrue.
“Canvass is not about removing people from the register, but ensuring the register is as accurate as possible,” they added.
“Registering to vote is fundamental to the democratic process and people cannot remain on the NI register indefinitely without periodically refreshing their registration.”
Mr Maskey said his party would be challenging the issue to “protect the voting rights of all citizens”.
“What the Electoral Office needs to do is implement new ways to make voting easier for people in an election in a pandemic situation,” he said.
But Ms McVea told BBC News NI that the Electoral Office was preparing to perform its statutory duty.
The canvass will open at the start of July and people will be able to register until the start of December, she said.
“As explained in detail to Sinn Féin and previously, the Electoral Office is intent upon supporting everyone in Northern Ireland who is eligible to get on the register during those five months,” she added.
Details will be sent to every house and registration will be available online or by paper.
All households are also expected to receive reminders encouraging them to register to vote.
[Help! Help! I’m being oppressed… – Ed] Indeed.