Elliott voices concerns over proxy votes and poll data

DUP will not field a candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone, as Tom Elliott chosen to defend his Westminster seat
DUP will not field a candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone, as Tom Elliott chosen to defend his Westminster seat

Concerns about both proxy voting and claims of information being taken away from the polling booth by party workers have been raised by the Ulster Unionist Party’s Tom Elliott.

The proxy voting system allows voters who cannot cast a ballot in person – because they are too ill or are travelling away – to let someone else go in their place.

But Mr Elliott said some people had been approached and asked to register to vote by proxy – whether had been unable to vote in person or not.

In Mr Elliott’s Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency, where just 875 votes separated him from the successful Sinn Fein candidate Michelle Gildernew, the number of proxy votes had risen from 1,454 in the 2015 general election to 1,707 this time around.

The former MP explained: “For people that haven’t voted in the past 10 years, there are people turning up at their door and saying ‘we know you’ve no interest in voting, so sign this form, give us your national insurance number and we’ll do it for you’.

“I believe that sometimes they [the electoral authorities] ask for proof that you really are away but by and large you don’t need any.”

He added: “There are always concerns. I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes because it’s not. This has been going on for years and it’s not just about the proxy votes.

“The proxy and postal votes are a concern but there is also the issue of polling agents carrying information out of polling stations, given that there are people outside who can use that information to chase people up to vote.”

Responding to Mr Elliott’s comments, Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea said: “Tom raised an issue with me and I met with him and his representatives and we moved through the issues he had raised. We were able to find resolutions on those issues.”

Regarding the issue of information being passed from polling stations, she said: “By law you have to maintain the secrecy of the ballot. All our staff received further notification about that as a reminder prior to the election and we also responded to concerns raised about that on the day of the election.”