Northern Ireland

Anonymous voting proposed for 'vulnerable' Northern Ireland

ballot box generic

Vulnerable people in Northern Ireland, including well known members of the security forces, may be able to register to vote anonymously.

New proposals could mean they are untraceable via the electoral register.

About 2,500 individuals could be eligible for secrecy in time for next year's European elections.

A government spokesperson said there were concerns they may be endangered if details like their home addresses remained publicly accessible.

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister Mike Penning said it was important that vulnerable people here received the same protection as those in Great Britain.

"It's important that this protection is balanced against the need to ensure transparency in the electoral process and retain protection against electoral fraud," he said.

Anonymous

"The draft legislation I am publishing today would extend anonymous registration to Northern Ireland.

"It makes minor changes to some aspects of the electoral process here to ensure the identities of individuals particularly at risk are protected at all stages of the voting process."

The law would permit anonymous registration for five years.

Those covered would vote by post because the use of identity checks at polling stations means a ballot paper cannot be obtained without photographic identification.

The government expects the legislation to come into force by next June, applying to polls to the UK parliament, Northern Ireland assembly, European parliament and local councils.