Memoranda submitted by the Government
Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland
Office on Electoral Malpractice in Northern Ireland
This paper provides information on progress to counter
electoral malpractice since our response to the Select Committee
on 5 April 2000 and indicates a timescale for implementation.
In the 5 April response to the Select Committee,
the Secretary of State indicated a range of initiatives intended
to combat electoral abuse. Following the meeting, the Secretary
of State wrote to Peter Brooke on 28 April with an update on our
proposals for the applications for absent votes.
Since that meeting a Working Group has been set up
to develop the proposals with the intention that they would then
be put out to consultation with the Northern Ireland parties.
The proposals have been compiled against the background
of the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select
Committee (NIASC) published in March 1998. The conclusions of
the Northern Ireland Office Review published in October that year
and various recommendations that have been put forward during
the course of meetings and correspondence with the parties were
also taken into account.
The proposals are attached at Annex A but are summarised
briefly as follows: -
- the collection, during the registration process,
of additional personal identifiers which will help subsequent
verification of absent vote applications;
- replacing, in the short-term, the most vulnerable
identification documents currently required at polling stations
with a photographic identity card;
- incremental moves towards the use of an electoral
identity card, which could ultimately become a voting card; improving
the absent vote procedure to speed up verification;
- increased cross-checking of data by investigation
teams within the electoral office; and
- examining the role of the RUC in following up
cases of electoral fraud.
While some of these proposals will require legislation,
by means of a Bill, the remainder are a matter of administrative
change subject to the financial and other resources available.
It is intended that the initial collection of personal identifiers
and the move to allow photographic identity documents would pave
the way towards an electoral or smart card at some point in the
future. Once agreement is reached on our first steps it may be
possible to frame the legislation in a way that provides enabling
powers to introduce such a card without the need for a further
The Minister responsible for electoral matters in
Northern Ireland, Mr George Howarth, held meetings with representatives
of eleven political parties in Northern Ireland between 20 November
and 4 December to discuss the Working Groups proposals for a Bill
to counter Electoral Fraud. There was broad agreement to the proposals,
but during the course of these meetings, several new ideas or
modifications to current ideas were raised. We have also sought
the views of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and
the Equality Commission on the proposals and await their response.
We are now preparing a response to those further
proposals and considering the next steps.