Neil McNicholas: EU voting farce – when is a deadline not a deadline?

The voter registration deadline for the EU referendum has been extended until Thursday night.
The voter registration deadline for the EU referendum has been extended until Thursday night.
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WHAT is wrong with people? As I write this, it has just been announced that the deadline for registering to vote in the upcoming EU referendum has been extended by 48 hours until Thursday night.

Why? In order to accommodate those who ignored, or failed to meet, the original deadline.

Half a million people registered during the final day – 50,700 within the last two hours and 26,000 after the deadline.

The June 23 date for the referendum had been rumoured for long enough anyway, but the official announcement was made on February 20.

People have therefore had three and a half months – 15 weeks - to make sure they were registered.

And unless people just returned Mars, there’s no way they could not have known there was a referendum coming up on June 23 for which they needed to be registered.

And if they did know but didn’t register, then they obviously weren’t sufficiently interested in exercising their right to vote and therefore why then extend the deadline to pander to their apathy?

It is clearly all about politicians trying to squeeze every last vote out of the electorate. Maybe they should give two votes to those of who did register in time.

Deadlines drive me crazy – not the deadlines themselves, but the total waste of time in setting them if they are not going to be enforced.

For example, we priests will be invited to a seminar or a retreat or the like, and applications will be invited and a deadline set for repliesto be received (which usually includes a request for lunch) so the necessary arrangements can be made.

However there is always a handful who will phone the office after the deadline has passed to ask if they can still attend, and the answer is always “yes” which makes a nonsense of setting a deadline, and what does it say to everyone else who returned their applications in time?

What was the point?

They also know they will be fed (because no one has ever been refused) even when they were not included in the catering plan.

Yes we are all busy people and that becomes the catch-all for procrastinating, postponing and, eventually, missing deadlines, but that is precisely the reason for setting them: everyone is busy including those who are doing the organising and they need to impose a degree of order if things are going to run smoothly and the needs and expectations of the majority are going to be met.

If, therefore, (to adapt the saying) “procrastination is the mother of intention”, the only way to teach people a lesson is to strictly enforce the established deadlines – established for a reason.

But we don’t.

Take coach trips. There will have been a stop to see something of interest, or for people to eat, or just to stretch their legs, and everyone will be asked to be back on the bus by a specific time.

But then there will always be some who are late – typically the same people every time – and so everyone has to sit and wait until they eventually roll up and usually with no apology.

What the driver should have done was leave when they said they would, and when the latecomers were left hitchhiking, maybe they’d be more considerate and punctual next time. But that doesn’t happen and so the lesson is never learned.

And it’s the same with flights. You are told that the departure gate will close at a specific time, at which point the doors should be closed, including the doors of the plane and anyone not on-board is left behind.

But no.

Again, everyone who had the courtesy to be on time is kept sitting on the plane while a search is made for those who are missing. It also costs the airlines a fortune in payments that have to be made for missing their departure slot.

The doors should be closed when it was said they would be – otherwise why say it. If people are unavoidably late sadly that’s just how it is, but if people are carelessly late they deserve to watch their flight take off without them.

So here we are three-and a-half months down the line from when the referendum was first announced and everyone (except those late arrivals from Mars) has known when it would be and therefore that they needed to be registered before that if they wanted to be part of the decision-making process.

The deadline was midnight Tuesday, so why is it being extended?

This referendum is a monumental opportunity to decide on the future course of our country.

If people haven’t been bothered enough to register to vote by now, why cater to their lack of interest?

Decisions are made by those who show up – on time.

Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.