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Election

Voters ‘were turned away’ in polling station confusion

TURN-OUT was up across Fermanagh for this council election, but it could have been even higher, particularly in Enniskillen where some voters ended up ‘losing’ their vote due to issues with where they cast their ballots.
It was always going to be interesting to see how engaged the people of Fermanagh were with this election campaign, and it appears Brexit and the lack of Stormont played its part in getting people exercised about local politics.
Turn-out was up across Fermanagh from 63.27 percent in 2014 to 64.9 percent this weekend.
In Enniskillen turn out was up from 54.23 percent to 56.04 percent, but the Herald is aware of voters simply going home without having their say after showing up at their usual polling station to find they had been moved to another, further away.
For example, the Herald knows voters living on the island of Enniskillen who previously had always voted at the Model PS but who were moved to Jones Memorial PS.
Others from Hillview and Kilmacormick were moved from Holy Trinity PS in Cornagrade to the Model. While the changes were stated on voting cards, many didn’t notice or hadn’t received their cards.
Outgoing councillor Debbie Coyle said the changes had annoyed a lot of people, and even put some off voting.
She said what while previously people’s polling stations were within walking distance, parents with children and older people who couldn’t afford to get taxis or did not want to take a lift had lost their vote.
“Yes, you want their vote, but far more importantly, you want them to have the right to vote.
“So many people, I feel, in Enniskillen missed out on their right to vote because of the changes the electoral commission made,” she said, adding she would be raising the issue with the commission after the bank holiday.
Ms Coyle added: “A lot of people went to where they had voted before, where they voted last time, and actually were turned away.
“That’s just not acceptable. I don’t know why the electoral commission puts these barriers in the way of ordinary people who just want to go out and vote.”
The Electoral Office has told the Herald the changes may have been a result of the fact it was a Council election, as opposed to Stormont or Westminster, and said it was looking into the specific issues in Enniskillen.
“People may have voted in different stations before partly due to local council elections working on a different set of boundaries so the polling station allocation does change potentially,” said a spokesman.
“That is why the poll cards are so important. Anyone who says they did not receive a poll card should contact the Electoral Office immediately. Sometimes premises are not able to operate as a polling station for various reasons and we need to find alternative sites. We are currently continuing administration for the European Parliamentary election.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA