Dramatic changes due as City Hall gets bigger

Canvassers hit the doorsteps this weekend

How Belfast’s new electoral boundaries will look How Belfast’s new electoral boundaries will look
By Francesca Ryan

A full electoral canvass of the North kicks off this weekend.

Saturday sees Phase One of the mammoth canvass by the Electoral Commission getting under way in a drive to ensure everyone has a vote at the next election – which will be for the new Belfast City ‘Super Council’ next May.

The Andersonstown News revealed earlier this year that on the back of the flag protests, over 2,000 loyalists had got themselves on the electoral register during a wave of Electoral Office-hosted clinics held almost exclusively in unionist areas – mostly in Belfast.

Official reports from last year have revealed that the local government and parliamentary registers were incomplete, both missing over 25 per cent of those eligible to vote. The Electoral Commission has launched this canvass in a bid to put that right.

The project consists of three stages, the first beginning this Saturday. In Phase One, approximately 1,350 canvassers will call at households across the North from August 24 until September 21, hand delivering registration packs which will include registration forms already containing the intended recipient’s name and address, where known. On the doorsteps, canvassers will either hand over the pack or post it through the letterbox. Registration forms should be returned no later than September 27.

In Phase Two from October 5 to 19, canvassers will revisit households from where no returns have been made and encourage people to complete electoral registration forms. If no-one answers, a new pack will be placed through the letterbox. These forms should be returned by October 23.

Phase Three, on November 5, will be a final mailshot to those who have not responded. These forms must be returned by November 18. The Chief Electoral Officer will also utilise data-matching during this phase to help him ensure he has a complete and accurate register. The new register will then be published on December 2 2013.

With just a matter of weeks to ensure you are on the register, it’s vital that people do not dismiss the electoral  literature and leave it too late to secure their vote.

The new electoral drive  comes at a time when parties are gearing up for the new 60-seat Belfast City Council, which will be elected for the first time next year, taking in Poleglass, Twinbrook, Lagmore, Mount Eagles and Dunmurry in the West as well as large swathes of Castlereagh in the East.

Nationalists and unionists will be fighting it out to win a majority on the new ‘Super Council’.

The election has been given added spice by the fact that it’s the first local election in Belfast since unionists lost their majority  on the current 51-seat City Hall.

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