Tuesday, January 09, 2007


BreakingNews.ie is reporting that the government is to look into a threat by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to remove 19,000 people from the register of electors.

I was one of those people, it was only this evening that I found out my case was not unique or a mistake caused by bad timing and my 3 month holiday. While I was away in Australia a letter arrived for me stating the following

"Deal Sir/Madam,
I wish to advise you that normal procedures have failed to establish that you are still resident at the above address for the purposes of Voter Registration or that the details of your registration are correct"

The letter went on to give me until the 25th November 2006 to return the letter to the County Council if I wished to remain on the register. Naturally since I was somewhere in the Outback I could not return this letter and I only received it at the end of December.

Now the interesting thing is the Councils claim that "normal procedures have failed" to establish that I was still resident at my address. As far as I can figure "normal procedures" did not include calling to the address, at least not at a time that may suit the person about to be disenfranchised. Many voters work for a living, government economic success and all that. It would be sensible to visit during the evenings or maybe at weekends when the odds of someone being present are higher. Of course if that didn't work my name and address are in the phone book, a quick phone call leaving a message asking someone to call them back could have sorted out the problem months ago. Unfortunately as far as I can tell no one bothered to try any of those “procedures”. But I suppose if you are about to remove 19,000 people from the register of electors then you cant really deal with everyone personally. It just wouldn't be efficient.

On the 22nd of December the Council once again sent out a letter, this time telling me that I would be removed from the register today, the 9th of January, in the Circuit Court at 11am. If I wished to object I could do so in writing and if necessary attend and give evidence at a hearing into the claim. 11am on a Tuesday is not the most convenient time for someone who works for a living, but it obviously suits the County Council. The Court Registrar may have required me to give evidence on oath. Shame they weren't so diligent about actually checking the addresses in the first place. Seeing how they sent this letter the Friday before Christmas there was little hope of me receiving it until the New Year, in fact it arrived in my post box last Thursday, 3 working days before the hearing (2 if you count the fact that I didnt get the letter until I arrived home from work on Thursday evening). I replied, of course, asking to be kept on the register but figured the chances of getting my objection in on time were pretty slim. I knew I could just apply to get on the Supplementary Register later, if necessary.

Fortunately, with typical Irish local government efficiency, the Council had contacted 19,000 people at the same time and told them all to contact the Council or be at the Court at 11am this morning. I don't know how big the court room is but I'm pretty sure it cant hold 19,000 people. It appears the Council and the Department of the Environment came to a similar conclusion and feared that hundreds of people could turn up this morning. Thinking about it now, in many third world countries when 19,000 people show up at a government building to complain about loosing the right to vote it's called a revolt, in Ireland its a crowd safety issue ;-)

Well the Department of the Environment is now looking into the situation and has requested a full report. The council has withdrawn the threats, sorry, the notices, and now wont disenfranchise people en-mass to meet Department objectives or quotas or whatever inspired them. Still I'll be checking to see that my name is on the register when it's published on Feb 1st, as should everyone who hopes to have a vote in this Summers general election.

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