Buying votes in East Belfast … at £6 a pop

Having interviewed him up at Stormont a few weeks ago, I bumped into 18 year old Stephen Stewart again at the East Belfast Assembly count last Friday. He was completing another stage of his off-curriculum political education by tallying some of the ballot boxes along with his campaign manager.

Stephen Stewart tallying East Belfast Assembly ballots

Unlike the rest of the party tally teams who were jotting down first preferences on their clipboards, Stephen and Alex only had two areas on their forms: STEWART and ALL OTHERS. Unfortunately for Stephen, almost all of the ticks were in the miscellaneous box. You can just make out the form – along with Stephen’s chin and rosette – in the photo.

Speaking before the first round result, Stephen expressed his hope to reach three figures and secure at least a hundred votes. He joked that it would be good to get 300 votes, one for every pound he’d spent on his campaign (half of that on his deposit).

When the first preferences came through, Stephen would have discovered that his cost per vote was closer to £6 … with only 46 first preference votes. With his swift elimination from the vote, he never really got to find out how well he would have picked up transfers.

Stephen Stewart tallying East Belfast Assembly ballots - closeup

However, 46 wasn’t the lowest first preference result. Procapitalism’s Charles Smyth polled a mere 29 in South Belfast.

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  • Drumlins Rock

    A very strong case for increasing the deposit to reduce confusion on the Ballot Paper, as a trade off the threshold should be cut to allow minority voices to still be heard. 0.06 % or 0.04% of the electorate is just a bit too small.

  • I am always, and will remain, a little sceptical of any 18 yr old running for such an office with any seriousness. Truth be told, I don’t want an 18 yr old with any legislative capability.

    Stephen’s campaign seemed to be centred entirely on the message that he was young which was good and the others were old which was bad. He also seemed to believe that because he was currently in the education system, he had a better read on how to handle it than those who weren’t. Sorry, Stephen, but please don’t try and tell me you know more about the issues facing parents of preschool and P1 pupils than they do.

    I think it’s great that he’s interested enough to get involved and wish more were of his ilk, but that involvement may have been better placed as a volunteer for another candidate.

  • john

    Charles Smyth got 9 – I repeat 9 votes in the council election. That should make an interesting conversation the next time he is out with his mates

    “‘So then which of you b**tards didnt vote for me”

  • Expecting so few votes, the boy — er, young man — should have just written down the party acronyms for the 2nd preferences of everyone who gave him a 1st preference. If he was eliminated solely (i.e. not combined with other eliminations), he’d find this out officially, but why not do it yourself?

    I maintain that any election is won before the official campaign is declared. Better to put in years on the ground, working the constituency, before putting one’s name on the ballot paper.

  • Mr Ulster – agreed – on both counts

  • Drumlins Rock

    btw why are we actually discussing someone who got 46 votes?

  • The Raven

    Indeed DR. No point in giving any recognition to someone with a wee bit of drive – however misplaced that might be – and who is outside of the normal profile, structure and demographic of the crowd we normally get, and for whom only 54% turned out.

  • iluvni

    Fair play to Mr Stewart for having the bottle to put his name forward. He deserves better than ridicule here.

  • DR – because it’s the end of his narrative and a follow-up to the interview. When I bumped into him in the Ards count tallying, I couldn’t resist.

  • But a wider point would be – the Irish election was the opportunity for a big increase in the number of independent TDs. For the Assembly, that wasn’t repeated.

  • iluvni,

    He hasn’t really been ridiculed at all on this thread. He has been criticised. Should his age and the fact that he stood preclude him from that?

  • Drumlins Rock

    In some areas there were 20 times more spoilt ballots than the votes Mr Stewart got, and having a profusion of names on the paper certainly contributed to that, not to mention the extra time and confusion at counting stage. If Mr. Stewart wants to get elected then join a party and work hard for them, alternatively if he is serious as an independent then get active in the local community putting in the manhours and getting his face know, not a cheap £300 quid ego trip to add more confusion to an already overcomplicated election. At the end of the day if we attribute a proportion of the spoilt ballots, misplaced votes and people put of by the excessive number of candidates directly to Mr. Stewart, I would guess it more than cancels out his 46 votes, making his contribution to the overall democratic process a negative factor.
    Sorry I’m being so hard on the guy but a pinch of reality is needed as discussions and backslapping will only encourage similar egotists and further undermine the election process.

  • iluvni

    Simpson..
    Yes, criticism is probably a better word than ridicule in this case….and no, he certainly isnt above having some thrown his way. Do him no harm.

    My feeling though is that when you see the collection of greedy double jobbers, shady dealers, ‘ex’-terrorists, hypocrites, bullshitters, party grunts, only there through their dads and frankly, rough looking oul dolls, young Stewart is hardly at the top of the list as a truly terrible potential public representative.

  • He isn’t top of the list but he still needs to make his case for being elected and I don’t think he did a very good job of it.

  • RyanAdams

    To be totally fair its his £150.

    And why should age come into this?

    Oh yes of course politics is for the older generation, and they’re doing a great job running the place. Oh wait…

  • carl marks

    has anybody done the sums how much did each vote cost the other punters did he get value for money and would sometone tell him that next time he has £150 to waste ill take it of his hands