Electoral Commission needs to look at massive proxy voting increase in certain constituencies
One of the concerning aspects of the May Assembly elections was the dramatic rise in proxy voting (up by around 50% since 2016) and why that rise was vastly greater in some predominantly nationalist/republican constituencies.
At that time, both the DUP and the SDLP noted their concerns that there appeared to be no rational explanation for the surge. Perhaps it was a blip and, with the prospect of more elections some way off, the issue might go away.
However, Theresa May's snap election call shows, once again, that proxy votes have more than doubled here since the 2015 General Election. Why?
Following this general election, it is incumbent on the Electoral Commission to publish the percentage of the total votes cast for each candidate across all constituencies which were by proxy. The commission should do the same for the Assembly election in May 2016 when this spike first occurred.
If that analysis shows that large increases in proxy voting occurred for candidates in particular political parties in certain constituencies, then there is an obligation on the Electoral Commission to investigate why this rise and skewing of the proxy vote occurred in comparison to previous elections.
If evidence emerges of a clear correlation between the actions of political party canvassers in certain constituencies to act as persuaders for voters to sign forms for postal votes, which then translates into a high proportion of proxy votes for certain candidates, there should be a full inquiry.
If there is evidence of intent to corrupt the democratic system, the PSNI also has a duty to investigate. If we respect the principle of democracy, that respect must start at the ballot box.