Clause 2 - Dates of birth and ballot papers

Part of Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 16th October 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down 5:15 pm, 16th October 2001

Amendment No. 19 would require that when a would-be voter is proffered a ballot paper, in addition to producing the documents that provide the read-across under the Bill, the apparent age will be reflected against the register's age data. I put that badly and if I may I shall start again. The additional requirement in place of the two proposed in the Bill is important. The would-be voter has to produce a document and the apparent age of the voter is compared with the data supplied by the chief electoral officer. Correspondence is sought.

When amendments Nos. 29 and 30 were debated, the Minister said that he hoped that good progress would be made with digitisation and computerisation of signatures. Much was made in earlier debates about the fact that two additional pieces of information were required—the date of birth and the signature made in applying for a vote.

Under the amendments, the signature on the application form would have to coincide with that of the person asking for the vote at the polling station, who would sign for their vote. I am immediately conscious of the logistical problems that might arise if that process was not well managed—perhaps the bottleneck would grow even greater than it was at the last election—but with the right manpower and management, our objective could be achieved.

I should like to know if at any time it is intended that the signature on the application form to be registered as a voter will be stored electronically other than when a person applies for an absent vote, be it proxy or postal. With all the trouble that we are taking, quite correctly, to have signatures on applications for votes, to store them electronically and to have them available to the electoral officer, both centrally and presumably at polling stations, would it not be logical to ask someone to sign for their vote and immediately scan the signature for accuracy using the electronic database? With the Committee's permission, the Minister's reply will determine whether I press the amendment.