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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 10:21 GMT
Postal vote down since last poll
Vote counting
A postal vote is included with the votes cast at polling stations
More than 19,000 postal votes have been issued in Northern Ireland ahead of the 7 March assembly election.

The Electoral Office said the figure was down by 30% on the combined general and council elections of 2005, and 3% down on the 2003 assembly poll.

In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, 3,375 forms were issued - the highest number in any constituency. The lowest number issued was 393 in North Down.

Postal votes are issued to people who are unable to vote in person.

Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain said "In general terms, a postal vote will only be issued to someone who is unable to go to a polling station in person, this could be because of physical incapacity, being away from home on holiday or for work or educational reasons.

Postal votes
West Tyrone 2,345
Mid Ulster 2,183
South Down 1,318
Foyle 1,308
Newry and Armagh 1,226
Strangford 540
North Down 393

"All applications are carefully checked on receipt and those that do not comply with the statutory requirements are rejected.

"Where there are suspicions of fraud the cases will be referred to the police for investigation.

"I am determined that any attempt to interfere with any aspect of the democratic process will be dealt with to the full extent of the law."

With a postal vote, a ballot paper is sent to the elector who votes at home and posts it back to the Electoral Office. It is then included with the votes cast at polling stations.

The Electoral Office said this year's figures may increase marginally due to applications on the grounds of unforeseen illness which can be made up until 1700 GMT on 27 February.

There have been a number of high profile criminal cases in England in connection with fraudulent postal votes.



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