Murphy criticises Electoral Office bureaucracy

April 26, 2011

By Brónagh Murphy

Decisions by some Electoral Offices to refuse applications for postal or proxy votes in the upcoming elections has raised serious concerns, according to a local Assembly candidate.

Conor Murphy says Sinn Fein offices in Crossmaglen, Newry and Armagh have received “numerous complaints” from constituents whose applications for postal or proxy votes have been rejected for, what he terms, “extremely petty reasons”.

“In one instance a woman was denied a proxy vote because she had omitted one letter from her address.  In another case a young man was denied his vote because his signature did not include his middle name,” Mr Murphy claimed.

“My opinion is that these are extremely minor issues on these forms and should not warrant someone being denied their vote.

“Sinn Féin offices in Newry, Crossmaglen and Armagh have all received numerous complaints from constituents who applied for postal or proxy votes for the elections but who have been turned down for what I believe to be extremely petty reasons.

“In addition many of these disenfranchised people have reported that despite their inclusion of contact phone numbers and email addresses, the Electoral Office made no attempt to contact them regarding any concerns.

“I am dismayed that people who are entitled to a vote are being denied one,” he said.

“I am going to examine all of these cases and I will also look into the statistics for other constituencies to see if a similar level of scrutiny is being applied to their form filling.”

Mr Murphy has urged anyone who feels they may have been treated unfairly by the Electoral Office, to come forward.

“People who have been denied the right to vote in what they feel are unfair circumstances should contact Newry Sinn Féin on 3026 1693, Crossmaglen on 028 30 861948 or Armagh on 028 37 511 797.”

In response, a spokesperson for the Electoral Office said strict criteria must be met on applications for postal or proxy votes and the details on such applications must correlate exactly with the applicant’s information held on the Electoral Roll.

The spokesperson added: “Whilst it is inappropriate to comment on any individual application, the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland applies a consistent and equitable procedure for the processing of all postal and proxy voting applications.  This process is carried out in strict accordance with electoral law and the Electoral Office has no discretion to deviate from the legislation.  Anyone who has any queries with regard to postal or proxy voting applications, or indeed any other matter relating to the elections, should contact our Helpline 0800 432 0712.”