CLAIMS OF IRREGULAR PRACTICES IN MITCHELSTOWN ELECTIONS
Claims of irregular practices in a community council election that is now under way in Mitchelstown have been voiced by community council member, Batt Power. Mr Power is concerned that numbers written on the back of the ballot papers that have already been distributed could be used to identify who voted for whom in the election.
He is calling on the residents of Mitchelscourt, Barrack Road, Dun Ri, Kildorrery Road, Ashfield Manor and St Fanahan’s Place to boycott the election until the matter is resolved.
“This is highly irregular and a very questionable addition to the ballot papers. Community council ballot papers have never before been numbered in any previous election, why now?
"What is even more suspicious, from what I understand, is that some ballot papers appear not to have been numbered. In fact these coded numbers are not even printed on the ballot papers but are written by hand on the back.
"It also means that a handful of houses which, deliberately or accidentally, received unnumbered ballot papers can have their votes rejected on the basis that the unnumbered/ un-coded ballot papers could be deemed to be forgeries, I know of one particular house in this electoral area where no ballot papers were delivered,” he added.
Mr Power, who lives in Ashfield Manor, stated that this means that anyone wishing to gerrymander the election has the ‘perfect’ reason for disregarding votes from certain houses where the occupants may be deemed to be voting in favour of a candidate who is regarded as unacceptable to ‘the clique’ now controlling Mitchelstown Community Council.
“Why haven’t the officers of MCC challenged a letter recently published in The Avondhu in which suggestions of gerrymandering was referred to by a member of the community. Why wasn’t this suggestion dismissed as false,” Mr Power asked.
“The system (in use up to two years ago) of using ballot papers printed on difficult to find coloured paper, stamped in colour with the MCC logo, worked perfectly,” he continued. “There was never a problem with that system.”
Mr Power, who is a former chairman of the community council, went on to question the motives behind these coded numbers.
“What does it mean? Is it a case that the community council will not accept a ballot without a number? The people of this community need to know that their vote will be taken seriously. Community council elections must be beyond question.
"I am calling on the community council to re issue the ballot papers but this time without codes or numbers and to every house in the area. People’s identity must be protected when they submit their nomination.
"As the elected representative for the electoral area in which this questionable practice has been introduced by the community council without the approval of the entire body, I am calling on the residents to refuse to return the ballot papers until fresh unmarked ballot papers are issued,” Mr Power continued.
PUBLIC MUST QUESTION
Batt Power also called into question how ballots are stored after each election.
“One of the main issues regarding recent elections is that ballot papers appear to be held privately for a few days after the closing date for recent elections. The ballot papers should be left with the officer designated by MCC, ie. Proinsias Condon, who is a Peace Commissioner of impeccable reputation until the count is conducted a number of days later.
"The ordinary decent members of MCC and the public must question what in going on and stop sitting there quietly accepting practices that bring MCC into disrepute. I would call on members to start questioning what’s really going on and not be afraid to do so. A sham democracy exists in MCC, which has scant regard for the rules under which they are bound from what I can see.
"The chairperson of the election sub committee needs to tell the public why the system was changed. Who proposed this idea of putting numbers on the ballot papers and when? I have spoken to other members of MCC and they agree that it was not the general body of the membership of MCC that decided on this. It can only lead one to conclude that it was done by a clique within MCC,” Mr Power said.
Batt Power also claims that the up coming election in Area P contravenes the community council’s rules.
“I was out of the country on business when the most recent meeting of MCC took place. I raised a number of issues in writing to the secretary whose efforts to read it out to the community meeting met with objections from two or three officers. It was only on the insistence of other members that it was read to the end.
"However, all efforts on my part to get a reply to my letter regarding Kay Dawson’s co-option and this particular election would appear, at face value, to have been stonewalled.
“I am firmly convinced that the sudden urgency to hold the election in my area is because of my stance to have Kay co opted onto the community council. What the public has not been told by the officers of MCC, is that it took six weeks for them to confirm to her that she had been co opted.
"Members and the general public must ask questions about what’s going on. This election is making a joke of the rules. The proper procedures have not been followed. The election was scheduled to take place next spring. That decision was made at the September meeting.”
“It would have taken a notice of motion to all the members in advance of the October meeting to change that decision. No such notice of motion was issued and, if it were, it would have taken two thirds majority to over turn the decision take at the September meeting regarding this election.
"My stance on the Kay Dawson co option seems to have ruffled a few feathers and has created a situation where MCC has hastily re scheduled this particular election. I am certain of that, but it begs the question why the urgency to move the election forward. MCC has never held an election in November, December or January before” Mr Power concluded.
The chairman of the Mitchelstown Community Council, Sean Finn, dismissed Batt Power’s allegations and told The Avondhu why the ballots are numbered.
“The ballots were numbered simply to help with the distribution of the nominations and for no other reason,” Mr Finn said.
Thursday 11th November 5:32pm