Unionist candidate wants voting rules relaxed to accommodate Rangers fans

Unionist candidate wants voting rules relaxed to accommodate Rangers fans

A UNIONIST candidate standing in the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election wants voting rules relaxed to accommodate Rangers fans.

Darrin Foster, the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) candidate for Upper Bann, made his appeal after the date of the crucial election clashed with a Rangers game in Glasgow.

The election will be held on May 5, the same day the Ibrox side are due to host RB Leipzig in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final.

With a number of home supporters expected to travel from Northern Ireland to Scotland for the game, Foster wants the fans to be permitted to use a postal or proxy vote.

However, the deadline for applying for such a vote passed on April 12.

The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland will permit late applications for postal or proxy votes until April 26, but only on the grounds of unforeseen circumstances relating to health.

Despite this, Foster says the election's clash with the 'historic' football fixture makes for a 'strong argument' to relax the rules.

'Treated sympathetically'

"I have today written to the Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea requesting that football fans who are travelling to the Rangers UEFA semi-final match against Leipzig on polling day are permitted to vote via post or proxy," said Foster on Friday.

"While the deadline for applying for absentee ballots has passed, in the circumstances I believe there is a strong argument to say that fans travelling to Glasgow for this historic match should be treated sympathetically.

"Rangers have always had a large and loyal following in Northern Ireland and it makes sense to relax the rules so that no one is disenfranchised."

The forthcoming election follows the collapse of the Executive in February.

Following the election of more nationalist candidates than unionists in the 2019 General Election, an opinion poll suggests Sinn Féin's electoral success could continue in May and it could find itself as the largest party in Stormont.

If Sinn Féin wins the most seats, it would be the first time a nationalist party has won the right to appoint the First Minister.

The DUP, traditionally the biggest party, could lose votes to other unionist parties, including Foster's TUV and the UUP.

Glasgow Rangers reached the final of the Europa League — then named the UEFA Cup — in 2008, losing 2-0 to Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.

They made it to this season's semi-final after defeating Portuguese side Braga 3-2 on aggregate in the previous round.

The first leg of their tie with Leipzig takes place in Germany on Thursday, April 28.