General Election

Sinn Féin 'unofficial' polling cards not an offence, says PSNI

The 'unofficial' polling card was received by some voters in the South Down constituency
Brendan Hughes

THE distribution of 'unofficial' polling cards by Sinn Féin during the Westminster election was not an offence, the PSNI has said.

Police made enquiries after receiving a complaint that the cards were being circulated in the South Down constituency.

According to the Electoral Commission, it is an offence for candidates' election campaign material to "resemble a poll card".

But when asked about the cards, the PSNI said no offence had been committed.

"Police received a complaint in relation to polling cards in the Drumaness area of Ballynahinch," a spokeswoman said.

"Police carried out a number of enquiries and are satisfied that no criminal offences were committed."

Polling cards are sent to all registered voters shortly before elections in Britain and Northern Ireland telling them where and when to vote, but are not required to be produced when voting.

The unofficial cards included a line saying they were "published by Sinéad Ennis", a Sinn Féin MLA for South Down.

Her party colleague Chris Hazzard last week dramatically unseated the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie to become MP for the constituency, outpolling her by more than 2,000 votes.

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: "The Electoral Commission was made aware of a complaint relating to campaign material in South Down.

"The commission referred the complainant to PSNI as they were the appropriate body to look into the complaint."

A Sinn Féin spokesman said: “All our election material is in compliance with the rules of the Electoral Commission.

“Sinn Féin has consistently encouraged the electorate to exercise their democratic right to vote.”

Meanwhile, People Before Profit's Eamonn McCann has accused Sinn Féin of flouting electoral rules by communicating information from polling stations about who had voted to party activists outside.

Mr McCann claimed it "compromises the secrecy of the ballot" and gives Sinn Féin an advantage by enabling the party to mount a "get the vote out" operation by offering people transport to polling stations.

The former MLA – who was election agent for People Before Profit candidate Shaun Harkin in Foyle – has written to the Electoral Office seeking a meeting.

Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion unseated the SDLP's Mark Durkan in Foyle, winning by 169 votes after a recount.

The Electoral Commission said candidates are entitled to appoint 'polling agents' to be inside polling stations to mark off on their copy of the electoral register those who have voted.

But it said the agents must not breach secrecy requirements by disclosing details of those who have or haven't voted.

A spokeswoman said: "If the polling agent leaves the polling station during the hours of polling, they will need to leave the marked copy of the register in the polling station to ensure that secrecy requirements are not breached.

"The secrecy requirements are that anyone attending a polling station has a duty to maintain the secrecy of the ballot.

"Anyone who has evidence that a polling agent has breached the secrecy requirements should contact PSNI."

A spokesman for Sinn Féin dismissed the concerns as "deflection politics by Eamonn McCann".

"The voters of Foyle and West Belfast have once again rejected his party's support for a Tory/Ukip Brexit," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

General Election

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