Postal voting needs to be monitored, says MP

The DUP MP Gregory Campbell has written to British Cabinet Office junior minister Chloe Smith about “the huge increase in absent voting in specific parts of Northern Ireland over the last few years”.

Saturday, 20th April 2019, 3:39 pm
Gregory Campbell

He said: “An analysis of the postal and proxy voting figures for the last two general elections has highlighted some disturbing trends. There was also a similar surge, particularly in applications for proxy votes at the last Assembly election.

“The average number of proxy votes appointed at the 2017 General Election in seats which elected a Sinn Féin MP was 23.5 per 1000 ballots. In the seats which did not elect a Sinn Fein MP this figure was 7.8 per 1000 ballots.”

Mr. Campbell has written to Ms. Smith, the British Minister for the Constitution, insisting proxy voting must be closely monitored during the forthcoming local government elections.

“Given the number of Council seats that are often won or lost by a very small margin, it is absolutely vital that (a) everyone eligible for an absent vote applies for it, and (b) the Electoral Office demonstrates there is proper scrutiny of applications,” he said.

“I previously raised concerns about the unprecedented number of applications. The process has now been centralised, but the Electoral Office still needs to instil confidence amongst the public that full and proper scrutiny of every single application is going to be carried out.

“There is no logical explanation for the huge disparity in application rates across Northern Ireland. I have yet to hear any explanation as to why the number of proxy votes cast in Foyle at the last election was 27.8 per 1000 ballots, where the seat was won by 169 votes and the average for all other seats where SF were not in contention was 7.8. An almost fourfold differential defies a rational explanation. We will continue to monitor this issue and others where we have raised concerns, such as allegations that voter data can be removed from the polling station by polling agents appointed by parties,” he added.