Here’s Dolores Kelly:
“We were getting reports of Sinn Fein going twice to the same doors on the day of the election asking if people had voted,” she said.
“People were complaining to us that there were up to 10 men standing outside the voting station and that they found it quite intimidating.” She said there were also cases of republican ballads being blasted at SDLP candidates when they arrived at polling stations.
SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley had a similar story: “Some people I know of were canvassed up to four times during the course of the campaign,” he said. “I think they were selected.
In other words, anyone that was not convinced, they would revisit.” One nationalist source said she saw Sinn Fein members holding an elderly man’s hand and putting the voting card into it to show him who he should vote for.
She said party members had a colour-coded register defining whether voters were definite Sinn Fein, possible Sinn Fein, SDLP and those who didn’t vote last time.
But there is hardly any secret about this method. Slugger was told during a Sinn Fein campaign in Oldpark in North Belfast in the last Assembly elections in November 2003, that they categorise voters in core areas as either green (definite SF) or yellow (possible converts).
It’s methodical, and in the heartland areas, it seems to deliver. Perhaps it’s one reason Sinn Fein is the only party with five seats in a single constituency. Although, to be fair, it’s not clear if it is entirely legal.
In fairness, the real problem may be that other parties are under-canvassing.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty