Woodvale voting figures still low

By Staff Reporter

The electoral ward that has been the epicentre of the loyalist flag protests has the second lowest rate of voter registration in North Belfast, newly-released figures have revealed.

One fifth of those eligible to vote in the Woodvale ward, home to the Twaddell ‘civil rights’ camp, are still not on the register despite pleas for loyalists to get signed up. Just 79.25 per cent of Woodvale residents returned forms, putting it in 24th place out of the 25 wards in North Belfast.

The ward with the lowest number of returns is also a strongly loyalist area, with just 69.80 per cent of voters registering in Duncairn, which includes Tigers Bay. These figures come after a major loyalist drive to register voters in a bid to overturn the decision to fly the union flag from City Hall on designated days.

The latest figures reveal that nationalist areas of North Belfast that were languishing behind in registration stats have shown a marked improvement, with both Ardoyne and the New Lodge jumping by over twenty per cent in just six weeks. At the start of November just 59.36 per cent of eligible Ardoyne voters had registered with a similar number (59.13 per cent) in the New Lodge.

As of this week those figures had jumped to 86.16 per cent and 85.93 per cent respectively.

The story of last month’s figures was how successful the unionist voter drive had been, with Cloughfern leading the way on 75.82 per cent. Six weeks later it is up to 90.13 per cent. But it has been eclipsed by the Collinbridge and Cavehill wards that have registered a 95 per cent return rate in the latest figures. The overall return percentage for the constituency of North Belfast stands at 85.15 per cent.

Chief Electoral Officer Graham Sheilds said that the canvass had been “very successful”, but conceded more could be done.

This was echoed by North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín who expressed concern that people were continuing to be disenfranchised.

“While we are hearing a lot of spin from the Electoral Office on the great job they say they have done to update the electoral register, there are still areas where up to 20 per cent of eligible voters aren’t registered,” she said.

“Areas within North Belfast have registration figures ranging from over 90 per cent to below 80 per cent and this disparity needs further attention from the Electoral Office.

“Sinn Féin have repeatedly raised our concerns about access to the electoral franchise and the remaining barriers that leave almost a fifth of people off this latest register in some areas of North Belfast must be overcome.”

 

Anyone who is not registered, or who needs to update their details, can do so at any time by downloading a registration from www.eoni.org.uk or by contacting the Electoral Office helpline on 0800 4320 712.

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