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Candidate claims voting skewed by fake ballots

By Adrian Rutherford

An election official has claimed she saw a Sinn Fein worker handing out photocopied ballot papers in the car park of a Fermanagh polling station.

Shirley Bradshaw also claimed she confiscated “good quality” duplicate ballots at the station, where eight excess votes were allegedly cast.

The claims emerged as a legal challenge into the Fermanagh/ South Tyrone election result opened at Dungannon courthouse yesterday.

Unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor claims the election process was flawed and has asked the courts to review his four-vote defeat to Michelle Gildernew.

The Sinn Fein MP, who retained the seat after three recounts, insists she was properly elected.

Outlining details of Mr Connor’s case, Mark Orr QC claimed more ballots were counted than were issued, and that some votes should have been rejected.

However, the disputed ballot papers have not been retrieved from the 47,000-odd votes cast.

The case, which is being heard by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan sitting with Mr Justice Gillen, could last until tomorrow.

The court heard allegations that eight extra votes were found in the ballot box taken from the polling station at Holy Trinity Primary School in Enniskillen.

A verification statement showed 384 ballot papers were issued, but 392 were found during the count at Omagh Leisure Centre.

Miss Bradshaw, a presiding |officer at the station, told the court she had concerns that duplicate ballots were placed in the box.

She claimed “very good” copies were being handed out by a man she described as “representing the other party, Sinn Fein”.

The election worker outlined how she confiscated some of the “ballots” from voters.

Barra McGrory QC, who is representing Ms Gildernew, claimed the more likely explanation for the excess votes was human error in counting the ballots.

Miss Bradshaw has since been dismissed from her role because of the “poor quality” of her work.

Earlier, the court heard claims that a further four excess ballots were found in boxes taken from Newtownbutler, Garrison, Moy and Moygashel.

The case continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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