Allegations of voting malpractice…

Spring has sprung and the first cuckoo has been heard. The Newsletter carries a report that Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly MLA has alleged that Sinn Féin were guilty of electoral malpractice, a charge that is lent some credence by comments reported from the electoral office and denied by a SF spokesman in Upper Bann.
Illegal Vote Tricks Used By SF Says MLA Kelly

Upper Bann SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly claims that, during voting on Thursday, Sinn Fein was illegally smuggling out of pollings stations the names of nationalists who had not been ticked off the electoral registers after voting. Mrs Kelly fears people who had not voted then received visits from republicans, asking them to go and vote, as she has seen happen before. A spokesman for the Electoral Office said they strongly suspected the practice went on and they called it “absolutely illegal”.

  • Clive McFarland

    In Omagh we have also lodged a complaint with the Electoral Office over exactly the same activities. This happened at the European election, and more blatently last Thursday also.

    Both names/electoral numbers written on seperate pieces of paper were removed and later there was an attempt to remove a marked register. This was witnessed by both our own workers and those from other parties.

    Indeed Barry McElduff seemed to take some offence when I claimed that SF in West Tyrone didn’t trust nationalists to go out and vote for Sinn Fein on their own but the only way Sinn Fein could pick up extra seats was to defraud the electoral process.

  • La Dolorosa

    I presume it was a case of ‘vote early, vote often’…..

  • fair_deal

    Vote as you’re told

  • middle-class taig

    Dolores: what a pain! (I’ll get me coat)

    Seriously, though. Does the SDLP not realise how bad it sounds when it comes off with stuff like this? Especially to those of us who were happy to see them hold onto their position as a party of serious influence and whose votes are not yet entirely beyond them. You’d have thought nationalists would be thinking about coming together to counter the threat to democracy, civic society and peace posed by a resurgent DUP. No, no, it’s straight back on the attack against Sinn Fein. Dolores should be focussing on maximising her own vote; it just dropped below an Assembly quota for the first time.

  • Davros

    M-C T – if the law has been broken, don’t you think it’s important that the problem is addressed ?

  • Henry94

    If you hadn’t voted and some party hack came along to tell you to vote isn’t it far more likely that you’d vote for someone else to spite them.

  • Davros

    If you hadn’t voted and some party hack came along to tell you to vote isn’t it far more likely that you’d vote for someone else to spite them.

    Not if you thought that they could find out how you voted Henry.

  • maca

    “Not if you thought that they could find out how you voted Henry.”

    How can they find out? Just curious.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    Is there anything to suggest anyone can find out how people voted? Or that people believe they can? Or is this just another myth?

  • Occasional Commenter

    Henry94, the serial numbers on the ballot can be matched up with the list of electors. It is obviously illegal, but entirely possible, to find out how someone voted.

    It’s not a big secret.

    The serial numbers are deliberately put in as it can help to combat voting fraud.

  • Clive McFarland

    “If you hadn’t voted and some party hack came along to tell you to vote isn’t it far more likely that you’d vote for someone else to spite them.”

    They probably wouldnt be so crass as to come along and actually tell you to vote for them. However, if a party were on the lookout for an extra seat in an area and they saw that turnout was a little lower than they liked in a strong area for them they could just go into that area and ‘remind’ people that they havent voted. Even if some people dont vote for them, if they know its traditionally a strong area for that party they know that the increased turnout from that area due to the illegal reminders will benefit that party more than any other.

  • Davros

    Henry – the point is that there are some who believe that how they voted MIGHT be known. After all there’s an element of Big Brother Is Watching You when party representatives can find out whether one has or hasn’t cast one’s vote.

    The perception assumes a reality. I’m not claiming that it can be found out. That’s not important in this context, what’s important is that some people believe that it IS possible and as such are vulnerable to being pressured into voting in a certain way.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    Perhaps I’m missing something here, but my experience of canvassing was that we took people’s names to polling stations and checked them off against pledges. We would go and visit those who appeared not to have voted. I’ll shinnerbash with the best of them as you know, and clearly they shouldn’t be nicking the station’s own record, but I’m not convinced this is as sinister as is being made out. It may just mean their activists are too lazy to man the station.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    what’s important is that some people believe that it IS possible

    What is your basis for that claim? I don’t know anybody who believes the ballot is not really secret.

    If what OC claims is true then we are not living in a democracy.

    Henry94, the serial numbers on the ballot can be matched up with the list of electors. It is obviously illegal, but entirely possible, to find out how someone voted.

    Can anybody confirm that or rebut it?

  • la Dolorosa

    Henry -“If you hadn’t voted and some party hack came along to tell you to vote isn’t it far more likely that you’d vote for someone else to spite them.”

    It all depends – if you are ‘knocking up’ (that’s the technical term) voters who have hinted or confirmed that they will be voting for a certain party then it’s very important to make sure they get out to vote.

    I was doing this that last Thursday in Islington South and our candidate won but only by 500 odd votes so on election day it ‘s a vital activity and it is seen as positive becuase you are targeting a narrower group of voters.

  • Harboy

    Is it possible to find out how someone voted?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,,-1051,00.html

  • Occasional Commenter

    Serial numbers can be used to track who voted for who.

    Search for “This means that after the election” which is about 2/3 of the way down that page.

  • Chris Gaskin

    The same old story

    The shinners made gains therefore they must have done something illegal.

    I have been a polling agent for the last couple of eledctions and reject any notion that Sinn Féin does anything illegal in order to get its vote out.

    More sour grapes

  • Davros

    I have been a polling agent for the last couple of eledctions and reject any notion that Sinn Féin does anything illegal in order to get its vote out.

    Surely you can only speak authoritatively for activities at polling stations where you have been present Chris ? I’m happy to accept that you have played fair. You seem a decent sort of chap!

  • queens_unionist

    Sour grapes or merely a try to stop criminal Sinn Fein IRA.

    unacceptable personal attack removed A.U.

    But Ive heard of this happening before…
    the boys going round knocking doors…you havent voted yet…come with us!
    and yes there is a paranoia that the way you vote can be found out! it is entirely possible and im sure it probably has happened sometime in the past

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    Chris, with respect, you can’t have been present at all the polling stations can you? You cry “same old story” but then continue the “same old story” by denying everything outright, without any further examination. I’m fairly sure that SF didn’t need to do much to ‘get their vote out’ in South Armagh.

    Sinn Fein made gains all over the country, why did these 2 areas get singled out?

    What would Kelly have to gain by talk of fraud in Upper Bann, a seat nationalists, never mind the SDLP, are unlikely to ever come close to winning?

    I wasn’t there, I don’t know, but I hope to God somebody finds out rather than just saying “Dirty Sinners” or “Sure we’re all saints we would never do that.”

  • maca

    If SF are at it is it likely that others are also at it too?

  • Henry94

    qu

    But Ive heard of this happening before…

    There are two things to beware of in this. Fisrst of all unionists will believe any allegation ahgainst Sinn Fein even if the basis is only hearsay like you suggest.

    But the other side of the coin is that many republicans like to wind up unionists by giving the impression that there is widespread voter fraud in our community. I’ve seen that happen and for whatever reason we find it funny.

    The truth in my view is that whatever goes on in any party is minor and has no real influence on the overall result.

  • fair_deal

    maca

    “If SF are at it is it likely that others are also at it too?”

    I wish Unionism was still that well organised 😉

  • Chris Gaskin

    “Surely you can only speak authoritatively for activities at polling stations where you have been present Chris ?”

    That is right but I know people who have been polling agents all over the 6 counties and trust them 110%

    No Sinn Féin member would do anything in a polling area that would place the election in jeopardy.

    The reason why I am sure that it doesn’t happen around the country is simple.

    In my own area last week I was in for the “grave yard shift” (7am-11am) and the electoral officer went out to the cops and told them that the “shinner” polling agents had arrived and with that 4 cops walked into the polling area and 2 stood at one box and 2 at the other and didn’t take their eyes off us.

    Added to the fact that outside the polls the paras were videotaping every shinner about the place.

    I have heard all this bullshit before and that is all it is bullshit!!!

  • davidbrew

    “I have been a polling agent for the last couple of eledctions and reject any notion that Sinn Féin does anything illegal in order to get its vote out.”

    …ah, yes, but then you don’t consider the murder of a mother of ten to be a crime, so you’re not really in a position to judge illegality

  • Chris Gaskin

    “so you’re not really in a position to judge illegality”

    I’m in as good a position as you, so save the snide remarks for someone who cares

  • Davros

    Below the belt David ?

  • middle-class taig

    Davros

    “M-C T – if the law has been broken, don’t you think it’s important that the problem is addressed?”

    There are ways of doing that which I would respect, but making unsubstantiated allegations in the press this way feeds into the whole “shinners=criminals” agenda that makes people like me less inclined to vote for SDLP.

    Kelly sounds like a unionist and is doing the DUP’s work for it. She posits a nationalist community either hoodwinked, coerced or hypnotised into voting Sinn Fein. She does the nationalist electorate a huge disservice when she says “Some people wrongly believe political parties can find out who they voted for”. If there are 500 nationalist voters across the north who believe that, I’d be amazed.

    Given the SDLP’s shocking complicity in the electoral disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of nationalists and unionists, under a system recently admitted by the Chief Electoral Officer to have facilitated discrimination against nationalists, it would do better to, as has been suggested, put up or shut up.

    You raise an important point, though, Davros. In the post-GFA context, I don’t want to be giving my allegiance to a party which behaves in reckless disregard for the criminal law and basic democratic principles, which puts at risk the achievement of my political objectives by engaging in nefarious activities. However, nor do I want the party I am giving my allegiance to to be the sole victim of a McCarthyite witchhunt with no basis in fact while real wrongdoing by others (those who would do us down) is shrouded in secrecy and dissimulation). Any residual SF wrongdoing needs to be highlighted (I for one have no interest in receiving political leadership based on lies, deception and criminality). But if twere done, twere best done honestly, openly and for real. Not by smear and innuendo.

    As a thinking unionist I implore you to accept that SF supporters aren’t turning a blind eye to these allegations of criminality. We simply don’t accept them at face value. We want to put our fingers in the holes. We have spent decades (many of us as supporters of other parties) hearing allegations about RM which we knew to be lies and are now accepted as lies: IRA run drugs, RM operates prostitution and pornography rackets in the South, SF’s vote is based on voter fraud, IRA is in league with The Catholic Church etc. All bullsh*t. We watched in dismay during the talks as SF were excluded for supposed IRA crimes subsequently attributed to unionists. We watched in dismay as the government collapsed and shinners were lifted for spying on political opponents, only for the charges to be quietly dropped one by one (the damage already done). We are a community for whom the knee-jerk injustice of internment looms large in the societal consciousness. We listened to the loud, pompous, self-righteous unionist and British lies throughout, always with that nagging voice at the back of our minds – “aye, well the provies are no angels, maybe they were at this”. With the scales having fallen from our eyes on so much of this, how can we seriously be asked to believe that the bid bad SF wolf is coming when SF’s opponents have so often, so shrilly and so deceitfully cried wolf in the past?

    Especially now. Especially now when no allegation about SF, it seems, is too outlandish, no lie unpublishable. When the lies are so regular and widespread that SF can’t deny them all; the denials (of necessity) so frequent that the same liars are casting denial as evidence of guilt. For crying out loud, to listen to the press you’d think the Bulgarian banking sector was the financial services wing of the Provisional IRA.

    With reckless press comment of this nature, Dolores (intentionally or not) is assisting in the creation of a low-fat police state for republicans. There’s no smoke without fire, but let’s not look for the fire. Let’s not even look for the smoke. If there’s no smoke, well, surely we can smell smoke? I can smell smoke! Can you smell smoke?

    Or let me put it another way, those who are telling me that Emperor Gerry is wearing no clothes have been telling me that he’s been naked for the best part of two decades. Now I’ve been looking hard all this time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Gerry must be wearing something, cause I’m yet to see his b****cks.

  • middle-class taig

    Henry

    “many republicans like to wind up unionists by giving the impression that there is widespread voter fraud in our community. I’ve seen that happen and for whatever reason we find it funny”

    It’s part of the “here’s up the rebels” mindset – pretty harmless. The unionists need to develop a sense of humour about these things. Unionists (and moderate nationalists) have to understand and accept that republican disdain for authority and smirking admiration for harmless contempt for authority is essentially undecommissionable. It doesn’t mean we are not prepared and entitled to play a full and legitimate role in society.

  • JB

    I have no idea if Sinn fein were involved in this activity, however I witnessed an SDLP candidate quite blatently handing pieces of paper with electoral numbers on it to people who had arrived in a two cars at a polling station in Derry.

  • Chris Gaskin

    “that republican disdain for authority and smirking admiration for harmless contempt for authority is essentially undecommissionable”

    Agreed

    For a Middle-Class Taig you have a great grip on working class republicanism 😉

    I suspect you aren’t really middle-class 😉

  • Davros

    M-C T – I have long argued that the vast majority of SF supporters and many members are decent and honest people – my concern isn’t with the ‘Dr Jekyll’s in the Party but with the ‘Mr Hydes’.

  • queens_unionist

    “”I have been a polling agent for the last couple of eledctions and reject any notion that Sinn Féin does anything illegal in order to get its vote out.”

    …ah, yes, but then you don’t consider the murder of a mother of ten to be a crime, so you’re not really in a position to judge illegality”

    was about to post something to this affect DB.
    well done…although my comment was more regarding Gaskins Killing Policemen wasnt a crime comment last month.

    “No Sinn Féin member would do anything in a polling area that would place the election in jeopardy.”

    well presumably the taking of hundreds lives has blown democracy out of the water a little?

  • hensons

    huh those nasty Shinners at it again.

    Mosty hysteria to explain away the shinner vote.

    AS for the “myth” about parties knwoing who you voted for – show me one person who believes that and lets get them committed and off the electoral regsiter.

  • Jo

    Unless Chris specifically said something to the effect that Jean McConville’s murder was not a murder, I think DB’s comments above should be moderated. I had thought the rule was ball, not man, unless that rule applies to me and not to more seasoned posters. Eh, Ambrose?

  • PatMcLarnon

    Let’s look at who is complaining, Dolores Kelly who is driving the SDLP vote down to Attwood proportion in Upper Bann and a blogger from Omagh where the SDLP are now on a power with the Vote for Yourself Party.

    The main problem with the ballot has always been party political medical practitioners attached to local parties who raided nursing homes at will and stole votes for their respective parties from senile old codgers.

  • middle-class taig

    CG

    you calling me a pleb? 🙂

    Like most M-CTs, mum and dad are from working class republican districts. So I guess I’m what somoene accused me of being the other day – a nouvel arrivé. Just because I’m a nouveau deosn’t mean I don’t get it. One thing’s for sure, there’ll be more of us arrivant.

    Davros

    I’m not 100% convinced that the Mr Hyde figures you speak of really exist outside the fevered imaginations of DUP and PD Headquarters. Who exactly do you mean? Just former provies?
    Like in any group of individuals there will be schemers, plotters and dodgy geezers in SF. But I don’t know of any Dr Evil. (Although, following that train of thought, there really is only one Dr Evil in the North, and MiniMe would be a great name for wee Jeffrey)

  • slug9987

    Davros:

    unacceptable personal attack removed A.U.

  • Chris Gaskin

    “CG

    you calling me a pleb? :-)”

    LOL, I guess I am 😉

    but you should be proud to be a pleb!!

  • barnshee

    “I have been a polling agent for the last couple of eledctions and reject any notion that Sinn Féin does anything illegal in order to get its vote out.”

    Then explain how SF are able to arrive 4 yes 4 times at my door to “remind me” that I have yet to Vote and offer a lift – get its vote out well yes but how can SF possibly know who has or has not voted? either its illegal or its collusion by the electoral staff -take your pick.– SF certainly do “remind” a lot of people on election day

  • Comrade Stalin

    “I have been a polling agent for the last couple of eledctions and reject any notion that Sinn Féin does anything illegal in order to get its vote out.”

    Yeah. Like you’re really going to admit as an SF member that your party has been engaged in malpractice. How stupid do you think people are ?

  • Chris Gaskin

    “Then explain how SF are able to arrive 4 yes 4 times at my door to “remind me” that I have yet to Vote and offer a lift”

    I have went around entire estates asking people if they needed transport to go out to vote and there are 3 reactions, yes please, no we are heading over later or I have already voted.

    Nothing illegal in that

    “yes but how can SF possibly know who has or has not voted?”

    They don’t

    “Yeah. Like you’re really going to admit as an SF member that your party has been engaged in malpractice”

    Are you accusing me of being a liar?

    “How stupid do you think people are ?”

    If they believe Sinn Féin is involved in anything illegal then they are very stupid.

  • middle-class taig

    Comrade Stalin

    Obviously stupid enough not to notice that “aye, you would say that!” cuts both ways.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    Why would a party activist sign up as a polling clerk?

  • slackjaw

    MCT

    ‘However, nor do I want the party I am giving my allegiance to’

    Are you a member, then?

  • Chris Gaskin

    “Why would a party activist sign up as a polling clerk?”

    It is not about polling clerks but polling agents

  • aquifer

    Taking the roll numbers of electors who have not voted out of the polling station is illegal, and sending party activists who include paramilitaries out to get them to the polling station is potentially threatening.

    Having had their non appearance at the poll traced, people can also fear that how they vote can also be traced by others practiced in spying and illegality.

    People have a right to privacy and a right not to vote.

    Increasing a turnout from 60% to 90% among party supporters in this way will result in parties prepared to do this being grossly overrepresented, albeit with a tainted mandate.

    Prosecutions are probably unrealistic, but steps should be taken by the electoral office to stop this practice, which happens in a number of locations.

    Could voters with ballot papers issued be marked off with a UV pen with a screened UV light attached, so that only the roll record of the voter in question is illuminated briefly for inspection before marking off and re-inspection?

  • Pol

    Is this the X files web site.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gaskin exploded:

    “Are you accusing me of being a liar?”

    Calm yourself. I’m merely saying that I’d expect you to lie in the circumstances. I have no evidence whether you were aware of any alleged malpractice or not.

    MCT replied:

    “Obviously stupid enough not to notice that “aye, you would say that!” cuts both ways.”

    Not quite, given that the electoral office were quoted as saying that they strongly suspect the allegations are true. We’ve truly crossed into new ground if the electoral office is being accused of inventing baseless allegations for political gain. Not impossible but rather unlikely.

  • Pol

    Sounds like sour graps. The shinners do well in the elections.

    So how do we explaine it away

    Must have been cheating.

  • Chris Gaskin

    “Gaskin exploded:”

    I did not I merely asked you a question

    “I’m merely saying that I’d expect you to lie in the circumstances”

    WHY?

    I may be a lot of things but a liar I am not!!

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Well at least it’s SF who are doing the dodgy electoral stuff. Anyone else it would have been a crime.

  • middle-class taig

    Slackjaw

    No. I doubt they’d have me.

    Comrade Stalin

    Disappointed that the best you could do in respose was blether.

  • Mick

    Listen lads, can we put the handbags down now?

  • middle-class taig

    Mick

    What’s the big deal? There’s a bit of banter but there’s also been a bit of debate. Having said that, I’m still waiting for any kind of meaningful response to me 3.07pm yesterday.

    Personally , though, I thought the most dishonest post of the day was aquifer’s, especially his “Increasing a turnout from 60% to 90% among party supporters in this way will result in parties prepared to do this being grossly overrepresented, albeit with a tainted mandate.”

    Does he really think SF in Upper Bann increased its vote 50% (from 60 to 90) from say 4pm when they might have started getting jittery about people not voting. To do so they’d have had to go round to 3000 people’s doors, arrange childcare, organise lifts there and back, all in a matter of a few hours straddling dinner time, all under the radar of the electoral office and all in a fairly rural constituency. Even if you had 100 election workers in pairs you’d still have to do 60 people each. It’s just ludicrous. I’m almost sorry I’ve dignified it with comment.

    The “tainted mandate” thing is the nastiest thing of all. First it was voter intimidation, then voter fraud, then commandeering a ballot box, now its illegal voter management. Not content with disrespecting SF’s mandate politically, these people feel compelled wo question the veracity of that mandate. It’s bloody shameful.

  • A.W.

    I don’t want to pick on any particular political party but in this election a collegue of mine did catch polling agents bringing information on who had voted out to others in that party. This is happening over and over and it really has to be stopped. It is a serious matter.

    We have to make this impossible to do you don’t need a large number of agents to monitor general standards and voters have a right to privacy. If they vote or if they do not is a matter for them and them alone.