General Election

SDLP aware of at least 20 cases where people said their votes had been stolen

SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan with his uncle Mark Durkan (centre) shortly after he lost his Foyle seat last week. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan is to meet police over claims of “significant” fraud in last week’s general election in Derry.

Mr Durkan said he was aware of at least 20 cases were people said their votes had been stolen when they turned up to cast their ballot.

His uncle Mark Durkan lost the Foyle election to Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion by just 169 votes.

The Westminster seat had been held by the SDLP since its creation in 1983.

The party has also complained of voter fraud in South Down where another former leader, Margaret Ritchie, lost her seat to Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard by 2,446 votes.

While Mr Durkan did not accuse any party in relation to fraud, Sinn Fein said political opponents always made an effort to “explain away” their rejection by the electorate.

The Foyle MLA said he was raising the issue because it was wrong that people’s votes had been lost and not because the SDLP had lost the seat.

“The chief electoral officer told me they had 18 pink slips (filled in by people who believed their votes had been stolen) and I know of at least two more. The Electoral Office said that the number does not indicate that the practice was widespread but I would say it was significant,” he said.

Mr Durkan said he was also concerned about a significant increase in the use of proxy votes in Foyle.

“I don’t know how those proxy votes voted but I know there are almost 1,000 more than in the 2015 election,” he said.

Police confirmed they are investigating allegations of vote theft in Derry and Chief Superintendent Karen Baxter urged anyone with concerns to come forward.

“We work closely with the Electoral Office and where information becomes available in relation to criminal activity, we take action,” she said.

General Election

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