The BBC have a brief report that the Electoral Office is investigating the claim:
staff at Sam Gardiner’s office allegedly refused to assist constituents because they had not voted in the Assembly election
This seems to relate to use of the Marked Register, a copy of the register from polling stations showing who was issued with a ballot paper, which was subject to an Electoral Office report in 2005.
The Electoral Office report notes:
We are instructed that political parties purchase data copies of the Marked Register, and then run this information against their own data bases (eg of members, those who have promised support), in order to work out who to target for canvassing and other purposes. Over time, they are able to build up records which may assist them in ‘profiling’ voters who are likely to vote, if encouraged to do so.
On a slightly different area it states:
We are instructed that there is no evidence, save anecdotal evidence, from electoral pilot schemes in 2003, of any intimidation or harassment arising as a direct result of lists which show whether or not each individual has returned a ballot paper being supplied to candidates prior to the close of poll; but the risk is nonetheless real. The supply of such data certainly facilitates the possible commission of the offence of undue influence contrary to s.115 RPA 1983.
Which brings us to the offence that Sam Gardiner and staff may end up defending themselves on:
115 Undue influence.
(1)A person shall be guilty of a corrupt practice if he is guilty of undue influence.
(2)A person shall be guilty of undue influence—
(a)if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restraint, or inflicts or threatens to inflict, by himself or by any other person, any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm or loss upon or against any person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of that person having voted or refrained from voting
While the BBC report says Gardiner has described both incidents as a ‘mistake’, they could be expensive ones –Penalty: up to one year in prison on indictment and/or an unlimited fine.
A Portadown Times report reveals he used this tactic when dealing with people fighting to save their jobs and may be one of the incidences under investigation.
Mr Gardiner’s personally-signed reply which stated, “I personally am very concerned about this change-over, but disappointed to learn that our records that you did not make an effort to vote at the last election.”