Belfast Telegraph

Suspected abuse of proxy system could lead to results being challenged in court

DUP leader Arlene Foster (2nd L), DUP deputy leader and north Belfast candidate Nigel Dodds (L), former DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson (R) watch on during the Belfast count centre (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
DUP leader Arlene Foster (2nd L), DUP deputy leader and north Belfast candidate Nigel Dodds (L), former DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson (R) watch on during the Belfast count centre (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 Paul Maskey, left, with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 Emma Little-Pengelly with Peter Robinson pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 Alasdair McDonnell with his wife and family pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 Naomi Long pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General election 2017 Ian Paisley pictured at the election count at Seven Towers Leisure Centre Ballymena for North Antrim after keeping his seat. Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 Mark Durkan (SDLP) pictured at the election count at Foyle Arena Derry for Foyle and East Londonderry. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 Elisha McCallion (Sinn Féin) pictured at the election count at Foyle Arena Derry for Foyle and East Londonderry. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 The election count at Valley Leisure Centre Newtownabbey for East Antrim and South Antrim DUP's Sammy Wilson Photo by Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 The election count at Valley Leisure Centre Newtownabbey for East Antrim and South Antrim DUP's Paul Girvan Photo by Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017 The election count at Valley Leisure Centre Newtownabbey for East Antrim and South Antrim UUP Danny Kinahan Photo by Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 Westminster General Election 2017 DUP candidate for Lagan Valley Jeffery Donaldson pictured at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition after being elected as the MP for the area. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 Westminster General Election 2017 Sinn Fein candidate for South Down Chris Hazzard celebrates after winning the seat at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition Centre Sprucefield for Lagan Valley, Newry & Armagh, South Down and Upper Bann. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 Westminster General Election 2017 SDLP candidate for South Down Margaret Ritchie pictured after loosing her seat at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition Centre Sprucefield for Lagan Valley, Newry & Armagh, South Down and Upper Bann. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 Westminster General Election 2017 The DUP's candidate for Upper Bann David Simpson pictured celebrating after he wins the seat at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition Centre Sprucefield for Lagan Valley, Newry & Armagh, South Down and Upper Bann. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 Westminster General Election 2017 Sinn Fein candidate for Newry and Armagh Mickey Brady pictured celebrating after he wins the seat at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition Centre Sprucefield for Lagan Valley, Newry & Armagh, South Down and Upper Bann. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017. Tom Elliott pictured at the election count at Omagh Leisure Complex Omagh for West Tyrone and Fermanagh & South Tyrone.Photo by John McVitty / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017. Michelle Gildernew celebrates at the election count at Omagh Leisure Complex Omagh for West Tyrone and Fermanagh & South Tyrone. Photo by John McVitty / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2017 - Westminster General Election 2017. Barry McElduff celebrates at the election count at Omagh Leisure Complex Omagh for West Tyrone and Fermanagh & South Tyrone.Photo by John McVitty / Press Eye.
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 8th June 2017-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Jim Shannon (DUP) winner of Strangford with his electoral agent Simon Hamilton during the 2017 Westminster Election count at Aurora Leisure Complex, Bangor. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 8th June 2017-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Lady Sylvia Hermon (Independent) winner of North Down during the 2017 Westminster Election count at Aurora Leisure Complex, Bangor. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Pacemaker press 09/06/2017 General Elections in NI. Pictured is Gavin Robinson of the DUP. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Francie Molloy wins the Mid Ulster seat for Sinn Féin in the UK Parlimentary Election. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS
PACEMAKER BELFAST 09/06/2017 Gregory Campbell with his wife Frances after he was re-elected to represent East Londonderry
Pacemaker press 09/06/2017 General Elections in NI. Pictured are Nigel and Dianne Dodds of the DUP during tonights results. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Pacemaker press 09/06/2017 General Elections in NI. Sinn Feins Paul Maskey and John Finucane celebtrate during tonights results. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Nigel Dodds, Emma Little-Pengelly and Gavin Robinson pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North.Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
DUP candidate for Lagan Valley Jeffery Donaldson pictured at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition after being elected as the MP for the area. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Lady Sylvia Hermon (Independent) retains her seat in North Down. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Paul Maskey, left, with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Former First Minister Peter Robinson and his daughter Rebekah pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Peter Robinson pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Emma Little Pengelly, Democratic Unionist Party pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Clare Bailey, Green Party pictured at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast for Belfast South, Belfast West, Belfast East and Belfast North. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Lady Sylvia Hermon (Independent) running in the North Down talking to Mike Nesbitt (UUP) during the 2017 Westminster Election count at Aurora Leisure Complex, Bangor. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Michelle Gildernew pictured at the election count at Omagh Leisure Complex Omagh for West Tyrone and Fermanagh & South Tyrone. Photo by John McVitty / Press Eye.
The DUP's candidate for Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson pictured at the election count at the Eikon Exhibition Centre Sprucefield for Lagan Valley, Newry & Armagh, South Down and Upper Bann. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Barry McElduff, Sinn Fein candidate for West Tyrone at the election count in Omagh. Picture: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press
The election count at Valley Leisure Centre Newtownabbey for East Antrim and South Antrim Alliance's David Ford. Photo by Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Eamonn McCann pictured at the election count at Foyle Arena Derry for Foyle and East Londonderry. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.
TUV Leader Jim Allister pictured at the election count at Seven Towers Leisure Centre Ballymena for North Antrim and Mid Ulster. Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
UUP Leader Robin Swan pictured at the election count at Seven Towers Leisure Centre Ballymena for North Antrim and Mid Ulster. Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
DUP's Gregory Campbell at the election count at Foyle Arena Derry for Foyle and East Londonderry. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.
Daniel McCrossan, SDLP candidate for West Tyrone at the election count in Omagh. Picture: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press
The ballot boxes are opened for West Tyrone at the election count in Omagh. Picture: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press
General views of the election count at Seven Towers Leisure Centre Ballymena for North Antrim and Mid Ulster. Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
A voter arrives at the polling station in St Nicolas Parish Hall, Belfast, as voting gets underway in the 2017 General Election. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow (not pictured), at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day.Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Toby, a beagle cross waits for his master outside a polling station on the Glen road on June 8, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Voting in the general election is underway with Northern Ireland candidates contesting 18 seats. Counting will take place through the night at seven count centres in the province with the first results expected at around 1am. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Pedestrians walk past election posters in west Belfast on June 8, 2017 as Britain votes in the general election. Polls opened in Britain today in an election Prime Minister Theresa May had expected to win easily but one that has proved increasingly hard to predict after a campaign shadowed by terrorism. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Alliance Party leader and East Belfast candidate Naomi Long and her husband Michael pictured at St Colmcilles Parish Church in east Belfast where they cast their vote. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at a polling station to cast his vote in north London on June 8, 2017, as Britain holds a general election. As polling stations across Britain open on Thursday, opinion polls show the outcome of the general election could be a lot tighter than had been predicted when Prime Minister Theresa May announced the vote six weeks ago. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLISJUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill arrives at a polling station at St Patrick's primary school in Annaghmore, Clonoe to cast her vote in the General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill (right) with Westminster candidate Francis Molloy (centre) and MLA Linda Dillon (left) at St Patrick's Primary School in Clonoe, Co Tyrone before casting their votes in the 2017 General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Arlene Foster, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, arrives at Brookeborough Primary School, Co Fermanagh, to cast her vote in the 2017 General Election. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Voting begins in the Westminster General Election at polling stations across the UK open. Sinn Fein candidate for north Belfast John Finucane, son of murder solicitor Pat Finucane, and his mother Geraldine cast their vote at Rosemary presbyterian Church. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Voting begins in the Westminster General Election at polling stations across the UK open. Sinn Fein candidate for north Belfast John Finucane, son of murder solicitor Pat Finucane, and his mother Geraldine cast their vote at Rosemary presbyterian Church. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Ulster Unionist party leader Robin Swan pictured with daughter Freya at Kells and Conor primary school as he casts his vote for this years Westminster Elections. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 - Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip leave after casting their votes in the General Election at a polling station in the village of Sonning. Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves a polling station after casting his vote in north London on June 8, 2017, as Britain holds a general election. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel Leal-OlivasDANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images
Leader of Traditional Unionist Voice Jim Allister and wife Ruth Allister pictured after voting at Connor Primary School in Kells. Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker.
A man photographs his dog outside a polling station at Lillington Gardens Community Centre in Pimlico, London, as people cast their votes in the General Election. Yui Mok/PA Wire
A voter arrives at Brookeborough Primary School, Co Fermanagh, to cast a vote in the 2017 General Election. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Arlene Foster, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, leaving Brookeborough Primary School, Co Fermanagh, having cast her vote in the 2017 General Election. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives to cast her vote in the General Election at a polling station at Broomhouse Community Hall in Glasgow. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Ulster Unionist party leader Robin Swan pictured with daughter Freya at Kells and Conor primary school as he casts his vote for this years Westminster Elections. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 - Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Ulster Unionist party leader Robin Swan pictured with daughter Freya at Kells and Conor primary school as he casts his vote for this years Westminster Elections. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland 8th June 2017 - Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
PSNI officers walk into the South Belfast Polling Station at St Nicolas Parish Hall, Belfast, as voting gets underway in the 2017 General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A voter arrives at the polling station in St Nicolas Parish Hall, Belfast, as voting gets underway in the 2017 General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A voter arrives at the polling station in St Nicolas Parish Hall, Belfast, as voting gets underway in the 2017 General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
How Stevie sees it. By Stevie Lee
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A leading academic has said the present proxy voting system is “nonsensical” and needs to be examined after suspicions were raised about electoral fraud yesterday.

Legal challenges to results could follow if there are widespread suspicions over the legitimacy of results in close-run races, Professor Jon Tonge from the University of Liverpool suggested.

Describing the recent rise in proxy vote applications here as “eyebrow-raising”, he said: “There is too much suspicion over proxy votes.”

“They are nonsensical in the 21st century.

“If someone felt there was widespread abuse, results could be open to challenge.”

Prof Tonge made clear his opposition to proxy voting, arguing that postal votes and the ballot box provided better checks.

Legal challenges could be most likely after very close results, especially if the number of proxy votes exceeds the margin of victory.

One potential candidate could be Fermanagh and South Tyrone, where in 2010, a legal challenge in one of the UK’s tightest ever votes went all the way to the High Court.

The number of proxy applications in Fermanagh this year is 1,700 compared to 1,400 in 2015.

The law allows the result of an election to be challenged if there is a belief it wasn’t run properly, for example if the votes weren’t counted correctly or a candidate broke the law.

A petition can then be issued to kick-start a legal proceess.

Calling for a full review of the proxy system — where someone votes on another person’s behalf — Prof Tonge added: “If cases start emerging, it leads to suspicion over the legitimacy of the result.”

A surge in the number of proxy vote applications to from across Northern Ireland for today’s poll has seen the figure more than doubled in some constituencies.

In Foyle the number of applications jumped from 330 in 2015 to 1,200 this year.

There are around 10,000 proxies eligible to vote on someone else’s behalf today.

Prof Tonge, who has carried out detailed research into Northern Ireland’s political system, suggested that the checks provided by voting at the ballot box and postal votes were adequate and questioned the need for proxies to exist at all.

In May, DUP leader Arlene Foster expressed concerns over the rise in proxy vote applications.

A DUP spokesman said last night: “If there are concerns of fraud, particularly over proxy votes, and if that had an impact on the election result, legal options would be considered.”

Debate was sparked after a pensioner claimed that her vote had been stolen in Foyle by unscruplous canvassers who duped her.

The pensioner believed she had signed up for a postal ballot — only to find out later that someone she doesn’t even know would be casting a vote on her behalf instead.

One woman in Foyle only became aware that an application for a proxy vote had been submitted for her without her knowledge when she received notification from the Electoral Office.

Wishing to remain anonymous, she said: “I was on the understanding that I was getting a postal vote because both me and my husband had postal votes in the past.

“These people knocked on my door said they would help me to apply for a postal vote.

“No-one mentioned a proxy vote, I certainly did not want that.

“I signed the form for postal votes, and while my husband’s postal vote arrived, I got a vote by proxy.

“I don’t even know who the person is that is suppose to be voting for me, I don’t know if they exist or not.

“I am really angry at this because I think I have the right to decide which party I vote for.”

The PSNI said: “The PSNI are investigating a small number of reports of electoral fraud following referral from the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland.”

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