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.