Foyle MLA to raise concerns over '˜stolen votes' with election chief

The opening of the first ballot box at the count centre for the Foyle constituency on Thursday nightThe opening of the first ballot box at the count centre for the Foyle constituency on Thursday night
The opening of the first ballot box at the count centre for the Foyle constituency on Thursday night
Serious concerns have been raised about 'stolen votes' in the Foyle constituency whereby people have turned up to polling stations only to be told they have already voted.

The concerns were raised by SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who is set to meet the chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland later today.

Mr Durkan told the News Letter he is aware of “at least 10” instances in the Foyle constituency where someone’s vote has been “stolen” by an impersonator who happens to have the same name.

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He explained: “What has been happening is someone with the same name has gone down and taken their vote.

“To use me as an example, I could have went down with my passport, which doesn’t have an address on it, and said ‘my name is Mark Durkan’ and said my uncle Mark’s address. My passport just says my name.

“I have been approached, so far, by at least 10 people who have had their votes stolen.

“These are people who have turned up to vote and been told that their votes have been cast already.”

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His comments outline the latest in a string of concerns around voting in last week’s general election.

Serious concerns had been raised previously about proxy voting, following a surge in applications mostly centred in nationalist constituncies such as Foyle, West Belfast, Newry and Armagh, and Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Prior to the election, the DUP leader Arlene Foster, the UUP’s Tom Elliott and Mr Durkan had spoken publicly about their concerns over proxy voting.

Mr Durkan said his concerns “have been realised”.

He said yesterday: “Given that concerns had been raised in the run-up to the election and given the fact that there were a record number of proxy votes, and having seen that proxy vote list I think it is safe to say that the concerns that had been expressed previously have now been realised.

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“I’m meeting the chief electoral officer tomorrow. There are examples that have been given to her – votes that I believe to be fraudulent – and it is my understanding they were passed to the PSNI.

“I will also be meeting with the PSNI to see what they did about them.”

Asked to respond to Mr Durkan’s concerns, Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea said: “I have not yet met Mr Durkan but when I receive those concerns, I can respond to any that he might raise.”

Ms McVea has confirmed that a “handful” of possible cases of electoral fraud are being investigated by the PSNI.

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She said: “Any of those figures who have given me specific information, we have gone to the PSNI in a handful of cases and they are currently under investigation.”

A police spokesperson said that they are “investigating a small number of reports of electoral fraud” but declined to give any further details, saying: “Inquiries are ongoing so it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

Chief Superintendent Karen Baxter added: “We work closely with the Electoral Office and where information becomes available in relation to criminal activity, we take action.”