Postal voting scandal in Plymouth gets even worse

Owl wonders if our EDDC error of insecure postal voting forms will receive attention from the Electoral Commission – which seems to have its hands rather full after this crucial election:

Thousands of votes were not included in the result for a newly-elected Labour MP, Plymouth City Council has said.

Luke Pollard won Plymouth Sutton and Devonport with 23,808 votes. However, the actual figure including the missed votes cast in his favour was 27,283.

Mr Pollard said the votes from the Efford and Lipson ward were counted in his constituency, but they were not included in the result.

He would still have won comfortably over Conservative Oliver Colvile.

Mr Colvile’s official result on Thursday was 17,806 votes. However, with Efford and Lipson added in he won 20,476 votes.

The Electoral Commission has said it will investigate. [BBC]”

What is puzzling about this is how a mistake on this scale could happen. A core element of election counts is to check how many ballot papers you have at the count in total and whether that matches the number issued to voters at polling stations and returned through postal votes. Then you count the votes for the candidates and it is a basic check to ensure that the total of those matches that number of ballots cast.

From the council’s response so far, it sounds like a spreadsheet error may be the answer – but even so, it would require a sequence of spreadsheet errors for not only the vote total to be wrong but also for the ballot paper total to also be wrong and so still match. Or perhaps for no such cross-check to have been made. Either way, that’s not a ‘computer’ error by the looks of it; rather a failure to plan a robust way of handling the data which has safeguards against errors.