Sunday 23 October 2016

Sinn Fein try to remove gardai from voter vetting

Kelly adamant gardai should take 'custodial role' over voter register

Published 22/11/2015 | 02:30

WARY: Minister Alan Kelly
WARY: Minister Alan Kelly

Sinn Fein tried to have gardai removed from the process of vetting voters being added to the supplementary electoral register in the Dail last week.

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The party's environment spokesman Brian Stanley tabled an amendment to the Electoral Bill which would allow voters register to vote in the forthcoming general election without first getting forms signed at their local garda station.

Government sources said they took a "hardline approach" to blocking the proposal as they "could not reasonably allow" Sinn Fein remove gardai from the process of signing up to the late register.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Alan Kelly said he stopped the amendment being passed as he was "adamant" that gardai should take a "custodial role" over the electoral register to ensure election fraud does not take place.

Garda verification is not needed to be added to the main register of electors.

However, voters seeking to be added to the supplementary register must fill out a form and have it signed at their local garda station.

This is to stamp out the possibility of electoral fraud.

During a Dail debate on the amendment, Mr Stanley said he was seeking to remove gardai from registration as he wanted to "streamline the electoral process."

The Laois TD said since garda stations were closed around the country voters are finding it more difficult to get added to the late register.

"Many stations are only open for an hour or two a day or a couple of days each week," Mr Stanley said.

"This creates a difficulty in getting onto the register of electors for those who are working, as they cannot attend their local garda station to have the form signed.

"It is a real problem and people across the political spectrum are complaining about it," he added.

The Sinn Fein amendment would mean voters could apply to the supplementary register by supplying a photocopy of their a driver's licence, passport or a Department of Social Protection card that includes a photograph as proof of identity.

Mr Stanley said the electoral register was a "mess" and called on the Government to accept the change as a starting point to fixing the problem.

Responding to the Sinn Fein TD, Department of the Environment Junior Minister Ann Phelan said the Government does not accept the supplementary registration verification process should be "weakened".

Ms Phelan said legislation does allow some voters apply to the supplementary in certain circumstances without a form signed by gardai.

"The verification arrangements for supplement applicants serve to assist registration authorities in processing applications for entry in the supplement to the register of electors," she said.

Candidates actively seek to have voters added to the supplementary register as the election date nears closer.

The deadline to be added to the main electoral register is this Wednesday.

Sunday Independent

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