Disturbing trends in postal and proxy figures must face scrutiny - Campbell

12 April 2019

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has said the Electoral Office must ensure that all applications for postal and proxy votes are scrutinised properly. The deadline for applications passed at 5pm on Thursday.

Gregory Campbell MP

DUP Spokesman on International Development and Cabinet Office

Gregory Campbell

The DUP MP has been in correspondence with the Secretary of State and Chloe Smith MP, Minister for the Constitution over the huge increase in absent voting in specific parts of Northern Ireland over the last few years.

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 Fein 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.

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. 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. No party should have anything to fear from a thorough examination of all practices involved in our electoral system. The public must have confidence that the process is rigorous and fair, from the application form right through until votes have been cast.”

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