Belfast Telegraph

Electoral Office sends voters European election polling cards for closed venue

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea and Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin
Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea and Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin has hit out at the Electoral Office (EO) saying that their "incompetence" is directly impacting voters.

The North Belfast MLA was speaking after the EO sent voters polling cards for a venue which has been closed down.

A number of voters received cards telling them to vote at Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church in the upcoming European election, but the venue has been closed as a polling station.

However Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea said that the calling of the unplanned European election during the local council elections has presented "extreme challenges" to Electoral Office staff.

Ms Ni Chuilin also highlighted an issue over voting at Cliftonville Integrated Primary School during the recent council election.

She said that disabled voters were told they could not get access to the school and that it was a "disgraceful situation".

Mrs McVea said that the issue of access was responded to on polling day and that the school caretaker opened an additional gate as requested. She said that all polling stations had been assessed as suitable venues for people with disabilities.

"I have received no other such complaints across 1463 ballot boxes and the caretaker at Cliftonville school has agreed to have the additional gate open on 23rd May," the Chief Electoral Officer said.

While Ms McVea apologised for the confusion over voting at Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church and said new voting cards would be issued, Ms Ni Chuilin said that "the damage has already been done and even more confusion caused by the actions of the Electoral Office".

“This litany of incompetence has to end and Sinn Fein will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Electoral Office to demand that steps are taken to ensure we never again see the kind of errors and bad decisions that have occurred over these recent elections," the North Belfast MLA said.

Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church
Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church

Ms McVea said that Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church could no longer be used as it is being sold and paid tribute to the work of Electoral Office staff in difficult circumstances.

"I would wish to record deep gratitude for the efforts of staff in EONI, including well over 6000 additional members of the public," the Chief Electoral Officer said.

"We have never had one unplanned election called within another and their commitment is to be commended in ensuring provision of this service to the public despite the extreme challenges it presented."

Northern Ireland is set to go to the polls to vote in the European elections on May 23.

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