Belfast Telegraph

11,000 to have votes cast by someone else in General Election

By Jonathan Bell

More than 11,000 people will have their vote cast in Thursday's General Election by someone else.

Across Northern Ireland voters will head to the polls, once again, for the third election in the past year.

A potential 1.2million people will be eligible to cast their vote at one of the 628 polling places.

However, of those eligible to vote 11,000 have applied for a proxy vote meaning someone else will go along on polling day to complete the ballot on their behalf.

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That is a rise on each of the past two Assembly elections and more than double the number who cast a proxy vote in the 2015 General Election.

It is also up on the UK average with voters in Foyle, Newry and Armagh, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Mid Ulster and West Belfast issued the most proxies.

Virginia McVea chief electoral officer explained: "It's a fairly rigorous time-consuming process to verify each application for a postal or proxy vote, or as we refer to them, absent votes."

She said each application is considered on its merits and the evidence provided to determine if a proxy vote will be issued. Reasons given can include being on holiday or being ill for a valid proxy to be issued while many are rejected because of problems with the forms.

"It is not a tick box exercise, we check everything and we do get a lot of applications that are not approved.

"While the numbers are up, it is still a small amount of the eligible electorate. We publish all the figures and if anyone has any concerns they just have to pick up the phone to contact us."

Asked what she is predicting for Thursday, she added: "Rain, that's the only certainty." 

Polling stations are open between 7am and 10pm and if you are in the queue to vote by closing time, you will be allowed to cast a vote.

Come 10pm on Thursday, the 1,380 ballot boxes will be transported to counting centres at the Titanic exhibition centre, Eikon centre in Lisburn, and the leisures centres at Bangor, Foyle, Ballymena, Omagh and Newtownabbey.

The count must begin within four hours of polling stations closing and will continue through the night.

People have been reminded that you must bring photographic identification to the polling station which could include an electoral identity card,British or Irish passport, the photographic part of any driving licence, a senior smartpass, 60+ smartpass blind person’s smartpass or a war disabled smartpass.

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland added: "Voters in Northern Ireland have had plenty of experience of visiting the polls recently, but it’s important that they do take a few minutes to make sure they have done everything to ensure that their vote will be counted once the polling stations close at 10pm on Thursday.

"It’s important to remember that the voting system used for Westminster elections is different to that used at the Assembly election last March. You only need to place one X on the ballot paper against the name of the candidate of your choice.”

Voters can find out more information by visiting yourvotematters.org.uk or by calling 0800 4320 712.

You can find your polling station by entering your post code here.

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