SDLP defends election strategy despite confusion

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The SDLP in Derry have acknowledged that its vote management plans for the Assembly election has caused confusion but insists that its strategy is correct.

A spokesperson for the party’s Election Directorate in Foyle made the comment after concerns were raised about various candidates posters appearing on the same streets in a number of areas of the city.

The party spokesperson said the anomaly has arisen because of the way the candidates have been allotted different areas of the city, based on the location of polling stations.

“In the interests of vote management in the Assembly election the SDLP has assigned the different polling stations to each of the four candidates for them to canvass for first preference votes for themselves and 2nd, 3rd and 4th for the other SDLP candidates.

“This has been the practice at previous Assembly elections. The campaign material now being delivered by candidates and their canvassers clearly spells out the party’s vote management advice to the voters in each house.

“Because of quirks such as ward boundaries cutting through or across some streets, there will be houses very close to each other which will be in the catchment area of different polling stations. For example, people in and near one end of Abercorn Road will vote in Long Tower Primary School where Colum Eastwood is the No. 1 candidate. Meanwhile, people in or near the rest of Abercorn Road will vote in the Carlisle Road Presbyterian Church Hall where Pat Ramsey is the No. 1 candidate. The different posters on Abercorn Road simply reflect that difference and are a visible reminder to householders who are being canvassed on that basis,” the spokesperson explained.

The SDLP election strategist also appealed to voters to follow the party’s advice when voting. “Our important message to voters is to pay most attention to the vote management advice for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th preferences which they will receive from our canvass teams at their doors and polling stations.”

Acknowledging the confusion, the spokeperson said; “We recognise that two elections on the one day can cause confusion.

“Council candidates are similarly canvassing for 1st preferences for themselves and following preferences for their fellow SDLP candidates. Because of the number of candidates they cannot each be allocated whole polling stations but are divided more locally – including according to different boxes within polling stations.

The way in which different addresses close to each other are assigned to different boxes in a polling station also throw up quirks which can even be confusing for canvassers as well as for local voters.

“However, voters should not be perturbed if they are canvassed on one occasion by a Council candidate at their door and on another by an Assembly candidate.

“We can understand the confusion which we have picked up from a couple of voters about first and other preferences where they have been canvassed separately on the two different elections.”

One caller who contacted the ‘Journal’ from the Marlborough area claimed three of the SDLP candidates had called at his door, each asking for a first preference vote.

This was denied by the party spokesperson. “Only one Assembly candidate has actually canvassed on Marlborough Road. If any leaflets, coming from joint Council and Assembly canvasses, for example, have been mis-delivered by error we apologise.

“Perhaps more importantly we emphasise that people should adhere to the absolutely clear vote management advice,” he said.