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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014

Section 17: Electoral Identity Cards

91.In order to exercise the right to vote in any election in Northern Ireland, registered persons must provide a prescribed form of identification to the presiding officer or clerk at the polling station before being provided with a ballot paper. One of the acceptable documents that can be produced is an ‘electoral identity card’, which is issued by the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland under section 13C of the RPA 1983. To obtain an electoral identity card, persons registered (or who are applying to be registered) on the register of parliamentary or local electors in Northern Ireland can submit an application to the Chief Electoral Officer in accordance with the requirements set out in regulation 13 of the 2008 Regulations.

92.Section 13D of the RPA 1983 provides that a person who for any purpose connected with the registration of electors provides to a registration officer any false information is guilty of an offence. However, there is a lack of clarity as to whether this provision would cover the provision of false information in an application for an electoral identity card. This is because an application for an electoral identity card might be made when a person is already registered to vote. In addition, an application for an electoral identity card must contain some information that is not required for registration purposes, such as a photograph certified as being a true likeness. Section 17 closes this potential loophole in the law.

93.Section 17 inserts section 13CZA into the RPA 1983, which provides that it is an offence to provide false information in connection with an application for an electoral identity card. The offence is similar to the existing offence under section 13D of the RPA 1983, with the same defence open to a defendant, the same evidential burden on the defendant and the same maximum penalty. A person who signed with a signature which was different to one they had used in the past due to illness would not fall within the offence in new section 13CZA (or the existing offence in section 13D) simply because their signature had changed.

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