SDLP criticises Sinn Fein of ‘over canvassing’…

On our last Slugger Radio outing Sammy noted that Sinn Fein’s electioneering techniques were miles ahead of the field. Unfairly so, say several senior SDLP MLAs.

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.

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  • Irish Republican in America

    In the US, anyone can have the names/addresses of registered voters like NI. A common way to do your best to keep track of who voted/not voted, like SF does. That’s how you get phone calls about candidates.

  • Dougal

    Sammy, I am not at all unsympathetic to your position and what you have said; I just think the matter warrants discussion. Issues of personation, distribution and alike can be addressed but surely this is a matter of logistics. Failings here certainly need to be addressed but I don’t see why it should it necessarily fall to the political parties, as if to suggest that they would be able to do a “better job”, as if they are somehow immune to the same failings? Also, there is no denying that some parties here have been linked with ” ‘unethical techniques of persuasion.’ I know people (plural) that have gone to vote only to be told they have voted already. In the past it may or may not have been reported but I think picture ID has helped curb much of this.

    All political parties have to battle with the big issues of party image and trust, (some more than others), but there is no doubting that the issue exists. The effectiveness of the D.P.A. will certainly play some part in this, but I don’t think it is, in itself, the answer.

    Who do you trust with your private information? Or maybe a better question for us to ask ourselves is, who don’t we trust and why?

  • The Devil

    Ok so the Shinners did well…. but that’s the result of Nationalists switching for a perceived winning team not heavy handed election tricks
    While watching on T.V I was impressed by the acting abilities of candidates I knew that with if they gave up politics Hollywood beckons.

    The Alliance party with its enlarged tally of Stormont members could now fill the role of the “Magnificent Seven” with Ford playing the part of “Yul Brenner”.
    Ian Paisley may have liked to have been cast in the movie “Giant” or even as Bond in “Never Say Never” but with Peggy O’Hara co-starring the part made for them is in “Jurassic Park”.
    The Workers Party with its countless lost deposits are obviously eyeing the part in “The Money Pit” or a “Fistful of Super-dollars”.

    In west Belfast where Sinn Fein crushed all before them Alex Attwood actually plays the lead in “Last Man Standing”, although it must be said he’s still looks like he’s auditioning for the next “Harry Potter” movie, the DUP seat is “Gone With The Wind” and while Dianne Dodds is feisty enough to play Scarlett O’Hara but the Devil just can’t see Nigel as Ret Butler taking off his shirt to show off a vest less torso and the Devil most certainly can’t envisage him using the immortal line from the film when Dianne told him she had lost her seat.
    The Sinn Fein election team without doubt have nailed the part in “How The West Was Won” but I think most unionists consider “The Wild Bunch” more appropriate and according to some sources on the canvass “The Boys from Company C” would have been more accurate, although Gerry Adams with his eye for the melodramatic would prefer if it was “The Greatest Story Ever Told” where he could dress up in white robes and be adored beyond belief, but i personally think that Richard wouldn’t need Gerry to be wearing white robes to love him besides the Unionist population think there is only one role that he is fit for and that would be “The Godfather” although the dissidents would prefer to see him in “JFK” but this would have to be ruled out because with so many lovers of the Irish language there wouldn’t be enough room on the Grassy Knoll.

    In Belfast South Carmel Hanna, Alex Maskey and Christopher Stalford fought out the last two seats, although if they stuck together they could easily land the lead parts in “The Good The Bad and The Ugly”, I would like to go on record now as stating that The Devil does not think that Christopher Stalford is bad.
    In the same constituency according to the transfers Sinn Fein received 12 votes from the eliminated PUP candidate whether these voters were auditioning for a part in “Twelve Good Men” or “The Dirty Dozen” is best left to the reader.
    With so many former woolly faces standing for Sinn Fein supporting roles in “Mask” and “Married To The Mob” really should be a given again however if one was of a Unionist persuasion perhaps a role in “Ruthless People” or “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” would be more appropriate.
    After the final count SDLP supporters could have auditioned for the “Crying Game”,in west Tyrone party feuding ensured that Kieran Deeney got the role of “Carry On Doctor” while they chased the role of “Dumb and Dumber” and perhaps cast their leader Mark Durkan as a ships captain in “Titanic”.
    David Simpson Sue Ramsey and Sammy Wilson are all vying for “The Battle of The Bulge” however Sue Ramsey may be ruled out because she is too Big a star but a Sinn Fein agent and there are plenty of them these days says that she still has a chance if they shoot it in wide screen.
    In Upper Bann John O’Dowd of Sinn Fein may behave like he is made for the part in “The Enforcer” but it would be more advisable if he pitched for the role of “Elephant Man”.
    Michele Gildernew is already rehearsing her lines for a part in “Hear No Evil See No Evil”, Gerry Mc Geough may see himself as made for “Braveheart” but quite a few more see him nailed on for “Psycho” but with his arrest at the election count his agent should consider him for a starring role in “The Fugitive”.

    The Devil thinks that Iris Robinson would look stunning in the part of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” however it is unfortunate that Peter is more Richard Whitely than Richard Gere but that shouldn’t stop him from buying Iris a pair of black thy boots with zippers which The Devil thinks Iris would look wonderful in and is quite prepared to contribute to a purchasing fund himself if Peter is stuck for a few quid.
    Staying with the leading ladies I think everybody would agree that Sharon Haughey would make a beautiful “Cinderella” with supporting roles going to Catrina Ruane Sue Ramsey and Paul Berry as the three ugly sisters.
    Geoffrey Wilson in South Belfast could play Dudley Moore watching Bo Derek running up a beach, if you know the title of the movie then you now know how many votes he got.

  • joeCanuck

    Sammy
    I agree totally with you.
    But you’re not really addressing the issue which this thread has drifted to.
    That is the fact that “everyone knows” that SF win votes, not through hard work before and during elections, but by sneakily using the Electoral Register to impersonate, multiple vote, intimidation etc.
    Why, I would be surprised if any other party actually picks up a copy of the register. It’s much more ethical to stop peole at random in the street (where everyone knows, even the dogs,)and humbly requet their support.

  • The Dubliner

    “Staying with the leading ladies I think everybody would agree that Sharon Haughey would make a beautiful “Cinderella” with supporting roles going to Catrina Ruane Sue Ramsey and Paul Berry as the three ugly sisters.” – The Devil

    That’s the funniest post I’ve read in yonks – with much keenly-observed truth in the mirth. Whatever happened to Paul Berry, by the way?

  • New Yorker

    Irish Republician in America,

    “In the US, anyone can have the names/addresses of registered voters like NI.” Registered voters are not necessarily actual voters in all elections in the US. The issue in NI seems to be that lists are available of actual voters just prior to voting or non voting.

    In NY the only calls I have received are automated and recorded messages and I immediately hang up or zap them from my voicemail. And, I think those activities should be outlawed. Snailmail and email are sufficient. Anything more and it is badgering, in my view.

  • Crataegus

    New Yorker

    I really don’t think that some of the politicos in NI fully appreciate the problem. Some years ago an organisation with political connections tried to murder a business colleague. He moved but the problems persisted. Eventually he left NI.

    The register in NI is given to political parties, marked and unmarked, it is also purchased by various commercial organisations and is used by Banks etc. It is in an excel format. Now let us imagine you wanted to find a John Smith with a wife called Roselin and a son of voting age called Stephen, how long would it take you if you had access to said spread sheets? In the context of NI and recent history I think we are collectively negligent. There has to be a better and more anonymously way of ensuring ballot boxes are not stuffed. Also you have to tick a box not to have your details sold to commercial organisations, it should be that you have to tick to consent to the distribution of your details. Utterly Shoddy.

  • Irish Republican in America

    New Yorker,

    I do know what you mean about being “badgered”. The phone calls are rediculous. But as someone who’s sent out direct mail, it’s fascinating.

  • New Yorker

    Crataegus,

    I agree with you. And, it is not much better in the US. The issue needs more public discussion. You have a fairly strong Data Protection Act. Perhaps someone could take a case on the grounds that their personal information collected and disseminated by the elections body should be protected by that Act. They might not win, as the politicians would not be in favor, but it would bring public attention to a serious matter, one which, as you point out, can result in bodily harm and death.

  • All Devilus

    “Whatever happened to Paul Berry, by the way? ”

    The Queen?

  • Chris Donnelly

    There has to be a better and more anonymously way of ensuring ballot boxes are not stuffed.

    Craetagus

    How does this follow on from political parties having access to the electoral register???

    I think you’re letting the mask slip. If you really believe the electoral performances of political parties can be traced simply to accessing a copy of the electoral register then you are in good company with Dolores and co.

  • rover

    Exceptionally well crafted Mr Satan

  • Crataegus

    Chris

    The electoral performance should have nothing to do with access to the electoral role. On that we all agree? It is about building up a presence between elections, work in the constituency and all that.

    So that said why such fuss about putting the rights of the electorate before that of those standing? Why should we publicise personal details or distribute them given the context of NI and the number of people who still feel exposed and threatened?

    How does this follow on from political parties having access to the electoral register???

    If the electoral role is of use to banks it is also of potential use to criminals. For some it is seen as a serious breach of personal security. It really should not be distributed in the form it is to anyone Banks included. It is not something to be sold. Why give names when all you need is the number of voting age, at any property, why even inform if someone has voted or if there is a 1st time voter at a particular location?

    After all as SF rightly say their success is based on the hard work of their constituency workers so why not address the criticism and introduce measures to insure the electorate do not feel intimidates or to insure that it is more difficult to abuse the system. Surely this would benefit SF as the candidates would all be forced to stand on their track record and merit?

    This is not a swipe specifically at SF we have recently seen a DUP councilor at it and there are going to be those in any party who feeling under pressure decide to bend the rules. The problem is wide spread, Labour councilors in England have been found to abuse the system.

    This type of activity besmirches the reputation of the vast majority of politicians and it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that abuse cannot happen.

    New Yorker

    You have a fairly strong Data Protection Act. Perhaps someone could take a case on the grounds that their personal information collected and disseminated by the elections body should be protected by that Act.

    That’s a good point I do think there is a serious breach and selling this information to commercial companies beggars belief.

  • TheDevilsgigglinggroupie

    I always though Mrs Robinson was reminisicent of Victoria Beckham in her emaciated with butch short hair days but again, Mr Robo ain’t no Mr Beckham sadly. Maybe if he were the unionist electorate would be more enthusiastic and maybe, shock horror, start voting in higher numbers instead of sitting encased in their blubber, reading the Sun and bitching bout how no one does nothing for them.

  • S&M

    funny stuff devil

  • Crataegus

    TheDevilsgigglinggroupie

    Anyone spring to mind for the lead role in the Marquis de Sade?

    Suppose Brian Wilson is the Lone Ranger and Dawn Purvis should star in Only the Lonely. When I think of South Antrim for some reason Alien springs to mind.

    Both SF and the DUP would have plenty of talent suitable for the roles as replicants in Blade Runner.

  • TheDevilsgigglinggroupie

    Diana Peacock?!

  • roy

    “David Simpson Sue Ramsey and Sammy Wilson are all vying for “The Battle of The Bulge” however Sue Ramsey may be ruled out because she is too Big a star but a Sinn Fein agent and there are plenty of them these days says that she still has a chance if they shoot it in wide screen.”– Devil

    lmfao

  • John

    The shifting of votes from SDLP to SF is only a reflection the fact that SF are nolonger a republican party, instead they are now one of two nationalist parties.

    The unioinst people have nothing to fear from this shift of votes. Nationalists votes total 40%, against the 60% for unionist parties, so the necessary 50% +1 would appear to remain only an impossible dream.

    History shows us that in 1922 33% of the population was nationalist, therefore it has taken 85 years for the nationalist population to reach 40%. Remember this increase was only achieved by catholic families having 4, 5 or 6 children. Therefore it will taken another 100 years for the catholic population to reach 50%, based on the same birth rates.

    However, how many catholics who blogg here intend to have more that 2 children, if any at all.

    Therefore, it is clear that the current popoulation status will be maintained, and the unionist majority will remain intact.

    Remember SF and the SDLP will never achieve a UI with out the support of the unionist people.

  • Crataegus

    John

    Population is only one part of the equation. Sub sets may switch allegiance and that is where the real game should be.

  • The Pink Lobster

    I cannot agree more with Crataegus 12.24′ post.

    Sammy:

    Can’t you acknowledge that the present system – where parties have access to all these sensitive datas – might give some concerns to the citizens? That it kinda breach basic data protection rights. Do you care about these rights at all?

    The thing that strikes me with your argumentation is that all of what you are saying is centered on the benefits for your party and not for the basic respects of citizens’ rights.

  • Pink Lobster – please reread my post. If you can explain to me how citizens benefit from having a closed register which is only inspectable by the electoral authorities, I’m all ears.

    A closed register allows the restricted group who have access to it to fix elections at will. Maybe that’s why I can’t think of any country in the world that has a closed register? As it is, any data stored by political parties in any electronic form is subject to the Data Protection Act.

  • The Pink Lobster

    Sammy,

    I re-read your posts, still don’t see any argumentations that could explain me the benefits that the canvasser should know the names of who is living where so as to hand a single leaflet and to have a wee chat about the manifestos on the doorsteps.

    Many countries have tighter regulations over the use of registred listings of voters. For example in France where the electoral listing can only be used to send snail-mails (commercial use is in any case verboten, see article 28 of the “code électoral”). Is the “commission électorale” fixing the elections in France? Have we witnessed that it is systematically the same party which won all the elections since the creaction of the fith Republic? Don’t think so.

    To have better protections, or to enforce the current provisions more efficiently, would automatically benefit the citizen as it will make him/her not feel under the scrutiny of the political parties. Because it is indeed about scrutiny: the way I felt when the SF canvasseur knocked on my door and knew my name was a sublimal message (which was reinforced by the tone of his voice) which was saying that I was under scrutiny from his party. Hence, citizens should have their personal datas protected. Campaigning yes: scrutiny no. Am I completely paranoid to feel that there is something wrong in the fact that any lambda canavaseur has in his/her hands my personal datas? That he/she has a right to check if I am really living in my house? That he/she could sell all this stuff to businesses who are going to junk my mail or even worse. Do you care about that?

  • Crataegus

    The Pink

    That he/she could sell all this stuff to businesses who are going to junk my mail or even worse.

    As far as I am aware it is the Government that sells it to business! Utterly unbelievable. This information could be very useful to criminals. If you have more than one property you can register in one place and register and vote in another to confuse. Well worth doing in my opinion. Hence no one lives in castle Crat. Superb.

  • The Pink Lobster

    Crataegus,

    Yeah, that’s mad. Hmmm, could the political parties offer better rates to pass on the listing to business than the Government? Would it be an explanation of why we always find a few “jokes parties”?

  • New Yorker

    Sammy,

    “As it is, any data stored by political parties in any electronic form is subject to the Data Protection Act.” – Do you know if any cases have been taken in this regard? Or, does anyone else know?

  • Briso

    Posted by The Pink Lobster on Mar 18, 2007 @ 11:37 PM

    >Hmmm, could the political parties offer better
    >rates to pass on the listing to business than
    >the Government? Would it be an explanation of
    >why we always find a few “jokes parties”?

    Oh, never thought of this… What information is available to candidates which is not available to any random interested party?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Because it is indeed about scrutiny: the way I felt when the SF canvasseur knocked on my door and knew my name was a sublimal message (which was reinforced by the tone of his voice) which was saying that I was under scrutiny from his party.

    Pink Lobster

    Another gem. Do you suffer from paranoia?

    Just how do you interpret basic manners as a subliminal message that you are (wait for it) ‘under scrutiny?’ And, furthermore, just how could he/she know your genuine voting intention?

    Craetagus

    You still haven’t answered my question- how does access to a register somehow relate to the stuffing of ballot boxes??

  • That he/she could sell all this stuff to businesses who are going to junk my mail

    They aren’t allowed to do that!!! They are subject to the Data Protection Act.

    how does access to a register somehow relate to the stuffing of ballot box

    The point is, Chris, if no-one bar the electoral authorities has access to the register, then no-one knows how many votes should be able to be cast at a particular ballot box, or indeed overall, then it’s a fairly routine matter to steal the election.

  • Curiouscat

    “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).”

    Sounds like how the army used to class areas of Northern Ireland, white for safe and no threat, grey for danger and black for no go areas.

    Incidentally, can you opt out of being on the electoral register? In the same way as my number is not in the phone book can I be ex directory for voter registers?

  • Briso

    >>That he/she could sell all this stuff to
    >>businesses who are going to junk my mail

    >They aren’t allowed to do that!!! They are
    >subject to the Data Protection Act.

    Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen…

  • In the same way as my number is not in the phone book can I be ex directory for voter registers?

    You can to commercial companies. You just tick a little box on the form.

    Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen…

    When and where did it happen?

  • Crataegus

    Chris

    You still haven’t answered my question- how does access to a register somehow relate to the stuffing of ballot boxes??

    Where have I said it was? Firstly it is about giving out peoples private details. Secondly it is about the potential use of the resister by criminals and thirdly it is about passing information out from polling stations which is in itself illegal. It is about the rights of the electorate.

    Sammy

    You can to commercial companies. You just tick a little box on the form.

    As far as I am aware this contravenes the governments own guidelines on good practice you should have to tick to be included. Not only that but Political types or people associated with them get all information and it would appear so also do banks!! Anyone else out there we don’t know about who gets our personal information thrown at them?

    Another issue on the numbering of papers, and I understand the need for this (Chris this is where stuffing of ballot boxes is a consideration). It would be extremely easy for a person in the government to take the voting papers of say those who voted for the Communist Party and trace them back to the individuals. I think we need to look at this.

    On a previous I meant to say where I live and where I register to vote are different because I view the system as a serious breach of personal security. I can do this because I own a number of properties most people can’t and failing to register can have serious consequences when it comes to getting loans as you don’t exist!

  • Briso

    Sammy, it could happen and the DPA would be no deterrent. That’s all I know. I have no inside information but I believe in Murphy’s Law: If it can, it will.

    What information exactly does one get access to as a candidate which is not in the public domain already? How much is it worth?

  • Crataegus

    Bristo

    Registered political parties (not candidates I think) are entitled to a copy of the electoral role. Independents are therefore disadvantaged.

    The electoral role tells you the full name and address of everyone entitled to vote and where they live. It also tells you first time voters, the ward, voter number etc. Political parties are also entitled to a marked role showing those that have voted and those that have not. So say you live in lower Shankill you could have someone visit you post election and ask for your vote next time mate!

    This information is obviously of potential use to criminals.

  • Briso

    >>You can to commercial companies. You just tick a little box on the form.

    >As far as I am aware this contravenes the
    >governments own guidelines on good practice you
    >should have to tick to be included. Not only
    >that but Political types or people associated
    >with them get all information and it would
    >appear so also do banks!! Anyone else out there
    >we don’t know about who gets our personal
    >information thrown at them?

    Cripes, I’m just reading this again!! Does this mean that commercial companies can get this info unless I specifically opt out??!!! Who do they get it from? Under what terms? Do they pay and if so, whom and how much? And, to echo Crataegus, can anyone else get it ‘legitimately’? Can I check that my information is not being distributed? Also, how much could one make by selling it on illegally? The last question is rhetorical…. 😉

  • The Pink Lobster

    Chris,

    Thanks for your concerns over my mental health. Really appreciate, mate. Great contribution to the debate.

    So you don’t care about the fact that personal datas are spread into the nature? So you don’t care about the respect of citizens rights?

    Basic manners, IMHO, is something like “Hello, here is our manifesto, vote for us, we’re the best, the other crap” and bad manners is to start a conversation by saying “isn’t the Pink Lobster living here?” A wee bit different.

    “just how could he/she know your genuine voting intention?”

    I did not say that. You’d better ask Sammy who needs to check the names to all the people he gives leaflets to.

    Sammy,

    “That he/she could sell all this stuff to businesses who are going to junk my mail

    They aren’t allowed to do that!!! They are subject to the Data Protection Act. ”

    Surely, they’re not allowed to do that. But the very fact that any lambda canvasseur get all this information make the potential of breach of the DPA even more likely. And you obviously does not seem concern by that.