Mr. J. Enoch Powell
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what factors other than variation in physical disability contributed to the level of absent voting in counties Fermanagh and Tyrone at the recent general election; and whether he will cause an investigation to be made into the validity of the certification for absent voting in those and other counties.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins
In both these counties the level of interest in elections is particularly high, support for the various parties is finely balanced, and the parties are extremely well organised. There is therefore a high degree of awareness among those incapable of voting in person of the importance of claiming—and casting—postal votes. Moreover, in these largely rural counties where polling stations may be some distance apart and public transport may be infrequent, infirm electors may find particular difficulty in getting to polling stations and more electors may therefore qualify for a postal vote on grounds of physical incapacity than, for example, in an urban constituency. Finally, electors unable to vote in person because of the nature of their employment or removal from their qualifying address are also eligible to vote by post. I know of no grounds to institute any investigation. I am satisfied that the chief electoral officer is rigorous in the inspection of all applications for postal votes and abides strictly by the statutory requirements. Any evidence of irregularities in applications should be forwarded to him.