UPDATED #EURef extention: In NI, it doesn’t exist..

And there’s another digital divide. After last night’s big TV event with Nigel Farage and David Cameron there’s been such a rush to get registered to vote in the 23rd June Referendum that the deadline has been extended until tomorrow night.

According to the Telegraph

Of the total 525,000 who registered on Tuesday, 132,000 were aged under 25 and a further 170,000 were aged 25 to 34. There were 51,600 applications made by those aged over 55.

How did they get that information? It’s online and available to anyone at gov.uk. The speed at which people can register (provided they have their National Insurance number handy) is impressive. It’s testimony to the Cabinet Office’s commitment to open government standards.

The trouble is that in Northern Ireland the Electoral Office comes under the aegis of the NIO, where open standards are still foreign money.

Update: The EONI have now said the extension doesnt apply to Northern Ireland

You can download the form, fill it out and (given the deadline is closing in just over 24 hours) physically take it to your nearest Electoral Office.

But in Northern Ireland alone in the UK you cannot register online for a vote, a proxy vote or a postal vote. Everything must be done by hand!!

Thankfully, for now, there are seven electoral offices throughout Northern Ireland so you don’t have to come to Belfast:

Area Electoral OfficeConstituencies
Ballymena Area Office
122 Broughshane Street
BT43 6EE
Link to Google Map
North Antrim
Mid Ulster
Banbridge Area Office
52 Bridge Street
BT32 3JU
Link to Google Map
Upper Bann
Newry and Armagh
South Down
Lagan Valley
Belfast Area Office
1st Floor
St Anne’s House
15 Church Street
Link to Google Map
Belfast South
Belfast West
Derry/Londonderry Area Office
20(A) Queen Street
BT48 7EQ
Link to Google Map
East Londonderry
Newtownabbey Area Office
1-3 Portland Avenue
BT36 5EY
Link to Google Map
Belfast North
East Antrim
South Antrim
Newtownards Area Office
2(B) Regent Street
BT23 4LH
Link to Google Map
Belfast East
North Down
Omagh Area Office
21 Kevlin Avenue
BT78 1ER
Link to Google Map
West Tyrone
Fermanagh and South Tyrone

On a footnote, the NIO currently has plans in the near future to close all but the Derry and Belfast Offices. The Gov.uk data indicates that online registration is hugely popular and often incredibly last minute everything that can be done should be done to move to digital standard soonest.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Korhomme

    Went with my daughter last week to the Omagh office to get her a proxy vote, as she will be abroad on the 23rd.

    NIPSA were outside on strike and on picket duty. Neither of us wished to cross the picket line; they were protesting at the closure of the Omagh office and its move to Belfast. They were perfectly charming. My daughter posted her application through the letter box. Not yet clear if it has been accepted.

  • Brian O’Neill

    To be fair it’s not like this internet thing will ever catch on.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I have to say that the spectacle of the young, running around desperately to get registered made me laugh. This is the generation which called us old crunchies no-nothing computer-illiterates: patronising at best: contemptuous at worst.

    They never bothered to ask themselves: who invented and developed the transistor, microprocessors and everything that goes with them over the last 50 or so years?

    The answer is: the generation whom they so despise: the generation who is running a dance around them and running them ragged.

    They have all the big guns, all the heads of state, all the economists, all the corporates, all the multi-nationals, most of the press and the Irish Times: all threatening and blackmailing:

    “do what we say or the kid gets it”

    By Toutatis! if they lose this one then they richly deserve to lose.

  • Ciaran O’Connor

    “Thankfully, for now, there are seven electoral offices throughout Northern Ireland” but if you live overseas you are disenfranchised.

  • David McCann


    Breaking: contrary to earlier report it now appears emergency law extending voter registration will NOT apply to NI— Mark Devenport (@markdevenport) June 8, 2016

  • Katyusha

    Also worth noting if you live overseas that the deadline for registering for a postal or proxy vote is June 15th.

    Unless you’re from Northern Ireland. In which case the deadline has already passed.

  • chrisjones2

    Apply in writing on parchment signed with a thumbprint in blood and countersigned by an Archbishop

  • chrisjones2

    Absolutely shocking closing an uneconomic local office and centralising in Belfast to save your money. Whatever next.

    PS what do all the staff do in between the pre election rushes ?

  • Korhomme

    The travel distance/time for me to Omagh is about the same as to Belfast. But, if I lived in Belcoo I’d be pretty pissed off.

  • Reader

    The emergency law is to cope with the people who tried to register by the deadline, but were let down by the registration website. There are no victims of this system crash in the Northern Ireland constituencies.
    Hooray for pen and paper, I suppose…

  • murdockp

    It is also funny to watch election night. The UK has a race to see who calls the first elected person in the small hours. In NI they go home and go to bed

  • notimetoshine

    Well not when we are talking about the electoral process, the small amount needed to run a local electoral office seems a price worth paying considering the chronic lack of innovation in NI governor (quelle surprise)

  • Declan Doyle

    I wonder does it exist in finchely

  • mac tire

    It’s always about de money with Chris. De money, lads!
    Democracy and access to it can go and jump. Tis the Westminster way… Just as Chris likes it.

  • Giorria

    Yet yet they still make you look very slow on the remote control. Thank you for inventing the Internet.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Radio is the theatre of the mind: TV is the theatre of the mindless!

  • WindowLean

    Is this the NIPSA that’s backing Brexit?? Clever fiends, stopping Remain supporters registering with a picket line!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yeah, but we can’t register anyway now. So what’s the point?

    It’s like a flag protest on a designated day, Ironic.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Basically I would say given there was no elections in England bar local government and the London General Assembly/London Mayoral elections, the system crash will largely be contained to the white areas on this map outside of London. With maybe some exemptions in Cornwall and the North East which could be pro-EU Lib Dem/Labour constituencies, the registration extension may favour Tory and UKIP strong areas, and how many Tories come out for the Remain side may be decisive.

  • chrisjones2

    It does in Finchley where they know how to capitalise and spell

    The sad thing is that in NI we have to have a much more restrictive process due to election fraud.

  • chrisjones2

    How intuitive for you and for the system to only collapse in certain areas

  • chrisjones2

    Well that money repairs your grannys hip and pays the midwife to deliver your children. SO where do you want to waste it

  • doopa

    Perhaps by saving money on seven offices they could spend some on a website so that access was improved and then spend the remaining savings on outreach and actually improve democracy rather than propping up unionised jobs.

  • submariner

    Its already being wasted on bombing Syria and Iraq. Funny you arnt yapping about that.

  • The Irishman

    Excellent point!

  • Croiteir

    That’s the want to disenfranchise those without internet access, so it would not improve democracy but hamper it.

  • articles

    A cautionary tale and some advice for the Electoral Office Northern Ireland

    Some years ago I decided to no longer participate in the regular sectarian head counts and I allowed my vote to lapse. However I responded to the recent referendum publicity and I decided to register to vote.

    Accordingly, I checked the EONI website and read as follows:

    “Please complete the registration form in full. Return it to your local Area Electoral Office with proof of your name, date of birth, address and national insurance number.”

    I checked the EONI evidence requirements to learn that there are a multitude of documents acceptable to demonstrate proof of name , date of birth, nationality and address but only the following prescribed documents acceptable as proof of a National Insurance number.

    “National Insurance Number – provide the ORIGINAL of ANY ONE of the following documents:

    A national insurance card

    A letter from the National Insurance Contribution Office

    A HM Revenue and Customs P2 Notice of Coding Form or Tax Credit award letter”

    I rang the EONI to tell them I possessed none of the above and I enquired whether a payslip or a P60 or a letter from my employer [all of which contain my NI number] would be sufficient. I was told no, that only a prescribed documents would be sufficient, and that I could not register without the prescribed evidence; this was repeated by the supervisor. I therefore could not vote in the referendum.

    At this point I will reveal that this took place on Tuesday morning, the last day for registration. So there I was, a disenfranchised disgruntled citizen. You may well think serve him right, trying to register at the last moment, but more of that later.

    Later that day after telling my daughter in England about my failure to register, she told me of the chaos in England with the failure of the online registration, but also tellingly about the absence of the requirement to provide proof of a NI number rather only a requirement to notify the authorities of the number, and their responsibility
    to verify it.

    I checked the next day with EONI by telephone. They were able to verify my National Insurance number online with the Works and Pension database and confirmed that I could have submitted my registration form without the prescribed evidence containing the National Insurance Number.

    I also checked the English and Scottish equivalents to the EONI paper registration form, and both only require you to enter your National Insurance number stating “look for your National Insurance number on payslips or official letters about tax, pensions or benefits. If you cannot tell us your National Insurance number, we may need to ask you for proof of your identity. We will contact you about this, and it may take longer to deal with your application.”

    Now I resorted to email and emailed the EONI and received the following response:

    “I refer to your enquiry regarding the registration evidence requirements to prove national insurance number.

    I have consulted the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer who has overall responsibility for electoral registration and she has advised that the Chief Electoral Officer has a statutory obligation to ensure that the information on the electoral register is accurate, therefore proof of national insurance number may be required. She has advised that she is not aware of anyone else having difficulty fulfilling the evidence requirements but the list of acceptable documents is kept under review. “

    Note the softening of the line to “may be required”, and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer’s ignorance of anyone else having difficulty fulfilling the evidence requirements to which I responded with the following link which outlines that 1000s are having problems with National Insurance numbers:


    Incidentally The Representation of the People (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2008 gives the Registration Officer the power to require information (under provision 24), and specifies the documentation the Registration Officer may require in relation to the date of birth, nationality, address, and residency (under provision 25, paras 3 to 6) but curiously no mention is made there or elsewhere in the Act of National Insurance numbers. I have asked for the relevant legislation reference from EONI buy as yet have not received a reply. Perhaps a reader could enlighten me.

    And then came the breaking news mid-afternoon on the BBC and broadcast on all other media outlets . Northern Ireland like Great Britain was extending the deadline to 9 June. I rang the EONI office again and they confirmed this, and once again following my request they confirmed my National Insurance number, and confirmed that I could toddle off to Banbridge the next day with my form and register.

    And then the late evening EONI news on Twitter via Slugger.

    “Digital registration problems did not impact Northern Ireland, registration deadline not extended to 9 June in NI, apologies for confusion.”

    Confusion is not my first choice of the appropriate word but it shares the opening letters. However there’s still hope, it’s early doors and EONI could still change its mind again, back again, back again…until the music stops.

    Incidentally, given my earlier correspondence with EONI I would have expected an email telling me of the extension, customer service and all that.


    That N Ireland should operate its registration system online is beyond dispute, and has been discussed at length elsewhere, so that can be parked.

    In regard to the current system and National Insurance numbers the following points can be made:

    The list of prescribed documents cited by EONI is redundant. National Insurance cards are no longer issued; very few PAYE employees with routine tax affairs receive notices of coding or tax credits, their employers do; and a requested letter from the National Insurance Contribution Office takes ten days to arrive on your doorstep;

    In any event you do not have to provide upfront the prescribed evidence of your NI number; the wording on EONI site, its forms and algorithms is simply misleading;

    Arising from the above, EONI have the ability to check your NI number with the Works and Pension database;

    If EONI are unaware of the difficulties caused by NI numbers then I am afraid that their attempts at engagement of the disenfranchised will only partially succeed particularly among the young;

    Many EONI staff in the front line are unaware of much of the above and are providing incorrect advice;

    Having said that you can hardly blame them when the senior management rush to publish the extension of the deadline in Northern Ireland, and then withdraw it only hours later.

    Almost finally I have often listened to erstwhile Chief Electoral Officers relating
    their experiences of advising on elections abroad. Perhaps now is the time to seek advice from our neighbours starting with the software developers in Belfast who provide the software for the online system in GB.

    Yes, I was late in attempting to register. The fact that I was unable to utilise the information I subsequently gleaned soon enough to allow me to register is however relevant, misleading information should not have been published in the first place.

    One final point, extending the deadline in GB and not NI, is a curtailment of our right to register; we are being treated differently, the method of registration is only a means to an end and is irrelevant, but that’s another matter.

  • doopa

    What – both of them.

  • mac tire

    Damn, I knew Chris would walk into that and you stole the point I wanted to make!

  • mac tire

    Oh because Finchley wouldn’t be involved in election fraud, would it?

    Electoral fraud is rife in Britain.

  • submariner

    Sorry but i couldnt resist administering a knockout punch

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m suggesting where the traffic could be coming from, based on the logical premise that the regions of England without local government elections or mayoral elections or General Assembly elections would be a little less likely to be registered than the rest of England.

    Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the shaded parts of England on the map and London will have first time registered people from this year’s elections.

    Yes it is open in Scotland, Wales and across the whole of England (and Gibraltar too I guess), but a campaign to get voters to register will have been made already in areas where there has been a vote this year.

    If you were a first time voter, would you really think you’d need to register when there wasn’t an upcoming vote or not?

    My assumptions are not conspiracy ones, just highlighting a strange coincidence.

  • doopa

    Any evidence for the claim that election fraud is a bigger problem in NI c.f. the rUK?

    Have a wee look at the facts perhaps: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/electoral-fraud/data-and-analysis

  • Declan Doyle

    I have to admit your constant sarcasm quite often makes me grin but I have recently wondered why u rarely if ever communicate on the level, I just stumbled on this and I hope you don’t mind …..

    The dictionary calls it a “sneering or cutting remark,” but there’s more to it than that. Sarcasm is scorn in subversive style. Researchers say that recognition of sarcasm is a sign of intelligence in children. It’s an awfully nuanced means of communication—too nuanced, in fact, to be used as freely as we do.
    What Do You Mean?

    You’ve probably heard it said, “I can’t always tell when you’re being real and when you’re being sarcastic.”

    Perhaps because the line between “real” and “joking” isn’t as thick as we usually think.

    John Haiman, a linguist at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., says people who use sarcasm are rarely just kidding. The words come from an authentic place, but it’s wrapped up as a joke for protection. Essentially, sarcasm is a survival technique for the insecure. It’s used to make yourself appear to be stronger or better, but it’s not said with enough seriousness for anyone to accuse you of being a jerk.

    Another interesting finding of Haiman’s study: Sarcasm is most frequent in the extremes of your social circles—the people you know best and the people you know least. That’s why Twitter is a boundless stream of insincerity. It’s also why the spouse who gets home late from work might be greeted by a dry, “So glad you could join us.”

    The increase of sarcasm over the Internet makes sense, researchers say. Sarcasm is an elevated communications trick and you have more time to formulate these jokes from your computer, editing your Facebook comment into the perfect haymaker of an argument closer. But its frequency among family members—people who supposedly care deeply for each other—is puzzling.

    Part of the answer might come from an interesting thought a friend related to me. “Show me a sarcastic person,” he said, “and I will show you a wounded person. And I can tell you where their wound is too.”

  • Croiteir

    Both of who?