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14th March 2000
Minutes of Special Meeting of the Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane, on Tuesday 4 February 2003 at 8.45 pm.
Present: - In the Chair: - Cllr E Mc Menamin MLA Other Members:- Cllrs: I Barr, A Bell, A Bresland, D Breslin, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey MLA, T Kerrigan, T McBride, E Mc Garvey, C McHugh, B McMahon, B McNamee, J McNulty Total = 15 In Attendance:- Clerk & Chief Executive, Business Manager, Administrative Assistant Apologies: Councillor C McGill
It was generally agreed that standing orders be suspended to allow the Special Meeting to be brought forward from 9.30 pm to 8.45 pm.
Notice of Motion – Registration of Electors
A Notice of Motion was brought to the Special Meeting of Council by Councillors: McNulty, McMahon, Breslin, McHugh and McGill.
Councillor McMahon proceeded to read out the Notice of Motion which was as follows:
“ This council views with grave disquiet the failure of the Electoral Office to ensure the registration of all those entitled to vote in the 2002/2003 Register of Electors.
This is not acceptable to this council or to the ratepayers of this council and it should not be acceptable to the Chief Electoral Officer.
This council, being greatly concerned at the large numbers of local ratepayers disenfranchised by the failure of the Electoral Office to properly carry out the role it had been entrusted with.
1 Calls upon the Chief Electoral Officer to attend a special meeting of this Council and give an explanation as to how and why the failure occurred and to discuss what measures he is putting in place to put right an intolerable situation.
2 That this council further appoints an all-party delegation to meet Paul Murphy with a view to establishing an inquiry headed by the Electoral Commission to look into the workings of the Chief Electoral Officers’ handling of the 2002/2003 Register of Voters.
3 That we call for the following measures to be put in place immediately by the Chief Electoral Officer.
Registration clinics to be set up in community and leisure centres throughout the Council area by the Electoral Office. Electoral Registration forms to be made accessible to the public at Post Offices, Council Offices and relevant public places. Inform everyone who has been included on the current Register of Voters. Carry out an immediate canvas of all those identified as having been excluded from the present Register and launch a publicity campaign encouraging people to register. Work in coalition with schools and universities to ensure that young and first time voters are encouraged to register.” (copy enclosed)
The motion was proposed by Councillor McMahon and seconded by Councillor McNulty. Councillor McMenamin commented that the motion had an impact on all political parties and on basic human rights.
Councillor McBride expressed his support for those who had been disenfranchised and stated that approval of the motion would allow everyone the right to vote.
Councillor Donnell referred to the first line of the motion and asked where the proof of failure was. Councillor McBride replied that there was definite evidence that many people had not been included in the Register. Councillor Donnell stated that he could not see what the problem was if some people had not applied to be included in the Register. Councillor McHugh responded by explaining that it had been difficult initially to ascertain the number of people who had been registered, due to the fact that the actual electoral registration list had not been circulated until 10 days after the due date. He added that there were still people who were unaware of whether or not they were actually registered. He said that he would expect this motion to address the problem, which has been acknowledged by the Electoral Office, and perhaps to resolve the issue, as it is a basic human right to vote and it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that as many people as possible are registered.
The CE confirmed that the Electoral Commission recognised that a problem existed.
Councillor Hussey proposed an amendment to the proposal, namely that the first line should read as following: “This Council calls upon the Electoral Office”, and that the following words should be deleted: “Views with grave disquiet the failure of ”.
The amendment to the proposal was seconded by Councillor Kerrigan.
Councillors McHugh and McBride pointed out that the removal of the words, “Views with grave disquiet the failure of ” would take some of the emphasis from the motion and there was a potentially short time in which to take positive action.
The Chairman called for a vote on the amendment proposed by Councillor Hussey for the removal of some of the wording on the first line. 5 Councillors voted in favour of the amendment, 9 Councillors voted against the amendment, and 1 Councillor abstained, resulting in the amendment being lost.
The Chairman called for a vote on the proposal by Councillor McMahon that the motion remain unchanged. 10 Councillors voted in favour of the motion remaining unchanged, 1 Councillor voted against, and 4 Councillors abstained, resulting in the proposal being approved.
Councillor McNamee commented that more electoral staff were needed to ensure a more accurate register.
The meeting finished at 9.35 pm.
DATED this 4th day of FEBRUARY, 2003
SIGNED____________________________ Clerk & Chief Executive
DATED this 11th day of MARCH, 2003
SIGNED____________________________ Chairman of the Council