More than 5,000 applications to vote rejected for Northern Ireland council elections

Counting underway for NI council elections. Presseye
More than 5,000 postal and proxy votes were rejected in this year's council elections for Northern Ireland Credit: Press Eye

More than 5,000 postal and proxy applications to vote were rejected due to a missing digital registration number (DRN) in May’s council elections in Northern Ireland, the Electoral Commission has said.

The head of the commission has called on the UK Government to urgently review the operation of DRNs in the region to ensure barriers to voting are removed.

In the local government elections, 462 councillors were elected to 11 local councils across Northern Ireland.

A new report from the Electoral Commission said voters are confident with how elections are run, but have raised concern over the rejected voting applications.

A DRN is required for those registered to vote online to apply for a postal or proxy vote.

The commission said the rejection rates and low public awareness levels of the DRN are acting as a barrier to voters.

Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, Cahir Hughes, said: “Voters continue to have positive views about how elections are run, with most feeling confident and satisfied with the registration and voting processes.

“However, issues remain. A large number of postal and proxy applications were rejected due to a missing DRN, demonstrating that it continues to be a barrier to voters in Northern Ireland.

“It is vital eligible voters can access their right to vote.

“We continue to call on the UK Government to urgently review the operation of DRN in Northern Ireland to ensure barriers are removed while also maintaining the integrity of the absent voting process.”

The report also found the capacity and resilience of election administrators, both in Northern Ireland and across the UK, remains a significant challenge.

It said recruiting and retaining experienced polling station and count staff continues to be difficult.

Mr Hughes said: “It’s important the UK Government carefully considers whether the necessary time and resources are available before making final decisions about implementing the remaining Elections Act changes.”

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