Electoral roll fiasco: ‘This shames our island’

Holocaust Memorial Service at St Germans Cathedral Peel.'Chairman of Peel Commissioners Eric Beale greets H.E. at the service.

Holocaust Memorial Service at St Germans Cathedral Peel.'Chairman of Peel Commissioners Eric Beale greets H.E. at the service.

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Peel Commissioners have hit out at the government over the electoral register row currently engulfing Manx politics.

Two of Peel’s commissioners, vice-chairman Jackie O’Halloran and former chairman Eric Beale, are not on the electoral register.

Jackie O'Halloran

Jackie O'Halloran

At their latest meeting the board hit out over how government communicated the change in the register process.

Board chairman Ray Harmer said: ‘This shames the island. We should demand people are reinstated. People fought and died for the vote. This is just making a mockery of it. The fact that an office can disenfranchise hundreds of people is an utter disgrace. It’s a big issue in terms of credit ratings too. We need to make a stand.’

Town clerk Derek Sewell said: ‘The email to the commissioners, sent at 11.05am on Christmas Eve, advises “Residents cannot vote in House of Keys or local authority elections unless they are on the register. Being unregistered can also affect a person’s credit reference history and excludes them from jury service.”

‘There was no reference within this email to commissioners advising the local authority of the Local Election Act 1986 legislative impact this change in policy to remove the names from the voters list would have if forms were not completed by March 18.

‘A letter dated June 1 provided a list of additions to the April 1 electoral register and said “These are electors which had been omitted from the April 1, 2015 register due to a clerical error.”

‘The consultation process beforehand had not been clear and, by their own admission, the government’s list on April 1 was not accurate.

Mr Sewell also said that government code of practice states ‘be clear about your proposal and who will be affected’.

Clearly upset, Ms O’Halloran declared that she was one of the two commissioners concerned and said: ‘I don’t remember getting a reminder, I had been off the island with family issues, but I’ve been on the electoral register since I was 21 in the UK as well and through my own fault this has slipped through. I’m not able to vote, I’m embarrassed before the board, I can’t sit on the board which upsets me greatly, I have always done my best for Peel. The only excuse I’ve got is if they’d said this affects commissioners I’d have done it.

‘I would be devastated to leave but I don’t want to bring the board into disrepute.’

Commissioner Alan Jones also backed Ms O’Halloran saying: ‘There is nothing to apologise for. A number of electors can’t get on the electoral roll until after our by-election. A number of people have been disenfranchised and two commissioners are unable to do the job they were elected to do.

‘This first came to light in the Douglas by-election and there seems to have been a lack of concern from the upper end of government, senior civil servants.

‘There’s been no movement since that by-election.’

Commissioner Christine Moughtin said: ‘When Jackie stood she was on that roll. We have 10 months of the term to run. Someone in government is being petty-minded. She’s done the majority of her term, let her finish it. In those four years these commissioners have worked hard for Peel. I feel heartbroken.’

Commissioner Ian Davison agreed, saying: ‘She has been an excellent commissioner. This is typical of Manx government, no transparency.’

The board decided that the two commissioners would continue to attend meetings but not vote on issues while the board wrote to the government expressing their concerns.

Mr Harmer confirmed after the meeting that Eric Beale was the second commissioner not on the register and that he also had the full backing of the board.

Last week, the Examiner revealed that the total number of local politicians affected was 13.

Click here to read that story.

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