Belfast Telegraph

'Grave concern' at drop in postal and proxy votes for European elections in Northern Ireland

Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland Virginia McVea.
Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland Virginia McVea.

The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland has said that she is "gravely concerned" at a drop in applications for postal and proxy votes for the upcoming European elections.

Virginia McVea told the BBC that the drop off in applications from the recent council elections was a "very concerning matter".

The number of people applying for postal and proxy votes for the European election is approximately 14,400.

This is a slight increase on the 13,782 postal votes cast during the 2014 European election.

However, the Electoral Office issued approximately 22,400 postal votes for the local council elections earlier this month.

The deadline to apply for a postal or proxy vote for the European Elections on May 22 was May 2.

Mrs McVea said that the drop-off in applications could be due to the confusion over whether or not the UK would be taking part in the European elections.

The UK did not originally intend to take part, but were required to after Brexit delays.

The Chief Electoral Officer described it as an "unprecedented situation" and said the uncertainty put pressure on the printers of poll cards and ballot papers.

"We can meet all of our deadlines within the electoral office, but the 1.3 million people in the electorate have to get poll cards and ballot papers," Mrs McVea told the BBC.

"The print house we work with was working right up until the 24 April, it couldn't stop doing the locals.

"They shaved all the time off it that they could but, proofing from the 24 April, this was the fastest it could be done."

Mrs McVea said she engaged with the Electoral Commission over the issue.

"I raised the concerns with the Electoral Commission and provided them with a schedule of the breakdown of printing that showed it wasn't humanly possible in Northern Ireland to have it done any faster," she said.

"They couldn't provide me with any other solution as to how it would be done and we knew we would end up in this situation.

"But it is of grave concern to me."

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