380 spoiled votes theory dismissed

By david looby

Published 12/03/2016 | 00:00

John Dwyer
John Dwyer
Returning Officer Marie Garahy

A claim made by General Election candidate John Dwyer that up to 380 votes were spoiled because of a stamping issue was dismissed outright by Returning Officer Marie Garahy as untrue.

The Independent candidate - who was eliminated on the fifth count with 1,362 votes - said that potentially hundreds of votes were left uncounted due to issues at a polling station in Wexford, adding that he plans to pursue the matter legally.

Issues with spoiled papers in both Wexford and Waterford emerged during the counting. Dwyer claimed that he was initially told that 380 papers had been declared invalid, but this figure was revised down to 50.

He said: 'We spotted a large bundle of papers under a table, but the returning officer said they were being discounted because they weren't properly stamped.'

Stamping a paper is the job of the presiding returning officer at each polling station when each voter presents him or herself.

Generally speaking a paper should be perforated appropriately before being handed to the individual voter.

Dwyer said his team has been involved in 12 election campaigns and four referendums and can tell the difference between 380 votes and 50 votes.

He said his 'missing' votes could have had a significant impact on the awarding of the final Dáil seat to either Sinn Fein's Johnny Mythen or Fine Gael's Paul Kehoe.

He added that many New Ross voters told him they gave him their first preference vote and voted for nobody else, and yet only 47 of his votes were non transferrable.

Dwyer said affidavits will be sworn as he pursues the case.

Ms Garahy said: 'We had approximately 50 unstamped votes across the whole constituency and there was no concentration in any one place, including New Ross.'

Ms Garahy said there are 191 polling stations in County Wexford, adding that she can easily track where the stamping errors were made.

She said: 'In cases where one or two weren't stamped properly the person will not be rehired. There were a couple of boxes where I would have a very serious issue, but I never had anywhere with more than ten.'

She said there were around 600 spoiled votes across the county, where people incorrectly marked the ballot paper, which was more than 100 votes more than in the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency during this year's count.

Wexford People

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