“Chief exec suspended over election failures leaves council by mutual consent”

Amongst other things, our CEO “misplaced” 6,000 voters by using inadequate means of registering them and had to explain himself (not terribly well in Owl’s opinion) to a Parliamentary committee:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/14/official-transcript-of-eddc-ceo-evidence-to-parliamentary-committee-on-voter-engagement/

“A chief executive who was suspended over failures in the running of the 2017 general election process has left by mutual consent.

John Sellgren was suspended from his post at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council in November 2017 after a review by Andrew Scallon, of the Association of Electoral Administrators, which found that more than 500 postal voters were disenfranchised, and close to 1,000 potential electors not included on the register.

A statement from the council on Sellgren’s departure said: “We would like to place on record our thanks for John’s efforts during his seven years with us. The council recently had its first all-out elections and the new administration has an ambitious manifesto and many significant projects to deliver in the years ahead.

“With this in mind the authority will now consider what management leadership arrangements to put in place to support this programme.”

Sellgren said: “I have enjoyed my time at Newcastle and send my best wishes to the dedicated team of staff and partners with whom it has been a pleasure to have worked.”

The council said it wanted to point out that there had been no additional payments made to Mr Sellgren.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly held the Newcastle-under-Lyme seat by 30 votes with 21,124 to his Conservative rival’s 21,094.

The Scallon report was commissioned shortly after the election when claims were made that some students at Keele University and postal voters were unable to vote despite following the correct procedures.
Some said they were turned away from polling stations despite having polling cards with them, and others who said they had registered to vote by the deadline were turned away for not having provided extra information required.

Scallon’s report said: “Human error and judgement and a lack of knowledge were responsible for the things that went wrong and led to the disenfranchisement of a significant number of people, raising questions about the mandate of the candidate declared elected as Newcastle-under-Lyme’s member of Parliament.”

He noted inadequate performance by Mr Sellgren (as acting returning officer/electoral registration officer) and consultants, worsened by a lack of experience among elections office staff and over-reliance on a software system, which was not properly managed.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36393%3Achief-exec-suspended-over-election-failures-leaves-council-by-mutual-consent&catid=59&Itemid=27

Voter registration for 2019 local elections begins

Owl says: keep an eye out for house-to-house canvassers for those who do not register. They have been few and far between in recent years, leading to around 6,000 eligible voters having been “missed”, leading to embarrassing questions (and answers) to EDDC’s Electoral Registration Officer (EDDC CEO Mark Williams, paid extra for this job) in Parliament:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/political-and-constitutional-reform-committee/voter-engagement-in-the-uk/oral/14118.html

“As part of East Devon’s annual voter registration canvass, households will soon be receiving a form asking residents to check whether the information that appears on the electoral register for those living at their address is correct.

The aim of the form is to ensure that the electoral register is up to date and to identify any residents who are not registered so that they can be encouraged to do so.

Local district, town and parish council elections are scheduled to take place in May 2019.”

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-devon-district-council-reminder-to-register-to-vote-1-5622986

People are urged to take the opportunity to make sure that when the elections take place, they will easily be able to take part.

Any residents who have any questions can contact the electoral services team at electoralservices@eastdevon.gov.uk or on 01395 571529

More political fallout from general election voting blunders

Some very familiar failings.

The continuing fallout from the general election blunders in Newcastle-under-Lyme seem to have caused the fall of the Labour administration on the council:

Elizabeth Shenton stood down as the leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council after losing the support of independents. The Conservatives have now taken control from Labour.

Almost 1,500 people were unable to vote in a constituency that saw the successful MP win by just 30 votes.

Two council officials were suspended last month.

Chief executive John Sellgren and Elizabeth Dodd, head of audit and elections, were criticised for a number of issues. [BBC]

The problems covered people being left off the electoral register, postal votes not being sent out and also two people being able to vote when they were not legally qualified.

Despite the confirmation of major errors in how the election was run, this won’t result in any MP being unseated or election being re-run as no election petition was filed within the tight post-election deadline.

If any Liberal Democrat readers from other parts of the country think the name of the Labour now ex-council leader is familiar, they’d be right. Elizabeth Shenton used to be a Liberal Democrat, standing in the 2008 Crewe and Nantwich by-election.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/153058/elizabeth-shenton-newcastle/

“British elections at risk from perfect storm of threats, says watchdog”

“The head of the elections watchdog has demanded urgent reform of the UK’s electoral laws and warned that the country faces a “perfect storm” of threats that could put the integrity of the system at risk.

Sir John Holmes, the chair of the Electoral Commission, also confirmed to the Guardian that the body has launched an inquiry into possible Russian interference in the EU referendum and is waiting for evidence from Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The regulator said that in order to police the electoral system properly, and hold politicians and campaigns to account, wholesale changes were necessary.

“We must avoid complacency to stop a perfect storm from forming which would put out democratic processes in peril,” he said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Holmes outlined a set of reform proposals which include:

New rules to require political campaigners to identify themselves on online advertising to combat Russian or other external interference in elections.

Increases in fines for political parties that find ways around election spending laws or fail to declare the source of their funding.

A new system requiring all voters to show photographic ID in polling stations.

A move away from only conducting votes on Thursdays and in schools or community halls. …

… “Electoral legislation is old, complicated and needs changing. There are proposals to do that. The government needs to give it legislative time,” Holmes said. …

… Following investigations into how the Conservative party moved campaigners and staff from its national headquarters to boost local party efforts in 2014 and 2015 – without properly declaring their hotel bills and expenses – the party was fined £70,000.

However, Holmes said the level of fines has to be increased to stop parties from taking such risks.

“Our ability to fine £20,000 for any single offence is not enough as an effective deterrent,” he said.

“Looking at the fines other regulators can apply, £20,000 looks fairly minimal. We think it should be bigger.”

Holmes also said the government should consider extending the use of photo identification at polling stations.

This suggestion follows allegations of widespread voting fraud, particularly around Asian communities in Birmingham, Bradford and east London.

The commission recommended in 2014 that voters should be required to prove their identities before casting a ballot, in the wake of widespread voter fraud in Tower Hamlets.

Critics of the plan say it potentially disenfranchises large numbers of people on low incomes who do not have photo ID.

Voting laws should also be reformed to allow new ways of voting, Holmes added.

“We should look at changes for a new generation of millennials who are the digital generation.

“We are not saying that we should move now to online voting because of the risks of hacking but that doesn’t mean that nothing ought to change.

“We need to ask ourselves whether voting on a Thursday in an old school building is the only way we can do this.”

The commission will release a report on Wednesday into the performance of returning officers at this year’s general election, with Holmes set to outline his proposalsin a speech to the Institute for Government later in the day.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/05/british-elections-at-risk-from-perfect-storm-of-threats-says-watchdog

“Five areas in England to pilot voter ID checks” – unfortunately ours isn’t one of them

“Voters in five areas in England will be asked to take identification to polling stations at local elections next year as part of a pilot scheme.
People in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough will be asked to take different forms of ID with them to see which works best.

The Electoral Commission recommended three years ago that voters be asked to prove their identity.

Minister Chris Skidmore said the aim was to ensure the system was “secure”.
Reports of “personation” in polling stations – votes cast in someone else’s name – increased from 21 in 2014 to 44 in 2016.

Mr Skidmore said the current situation meant it was harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel than it was to vote in someone else’s name.
He told the BBC: “We currently have a situation where people can go into the ballot station, point out their name on the register, don’t need to provide any information to prove who they are.”

He said it was corrosive to democracy if people did not believe the system was secure.

“At the moment we simply don’t know if people are impersonating one another or not. We just need to make sure that the system is secure enough.”
For some years, voters in Northern Ireland have had to prove their identity at polling stations.

But Tom Brake, for the Liberal Democrats, described the latest proposals as “a completely unnecessary move that risks undermining our democracy by preventing millions of people from voting”.

“Evidence from around the world tells us forcing voters to bring ID won’t stop determined fraudsters, but is likely to led to even lower turnouts amongst young people and minority groups.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41287240

Plymouth postal votes fiasco gets fierce criticism; EDDC’s SECOND postal vote fiasco still awaiting scrutiny

Our fiasco here:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/07/17/eddc-second-postal-votes-fiasco-will-be-scrutinised/

Plymouth fiasco here:

Plymouth City Council has received a report into electoral issues that led to problems at the last general election.

Between 150 and 200 people were unable to vote, and about 2,000 postal ballots were not sent out.

An independent report headed by Dr Dave Smith, the former chief executive of Sunderland City Council, looked into all aspects of the way the election was managed.

He will present it to full council on 25 September.

The council said his recommendations included telling it to:

Act swiftly to permanently recruit enough suitably experienced electoral registration staff to ensure the elections team is up to recommended staffing levels

In the meantime, ensure there are enough interim staff with sufficient operational experience to manage the team, build capacity and ensure focus

Make sure sufficient resources and properly documented systems, procedures and processes are put in place to ensure a successful election canvass and prepare for local elections in 2018 and plan for a future general election

Develop a more detailed communications plan with key stakeholders to ensure effective election communications especially when unusual situations arise

Carry out an independent review in January 2018 to ensure the council is suitably prepared for elections in May 2018″

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-41161495

Plymouth postal votes fiasco – voters considering action

Postal votes, that scourge of Returning Officers – including our own Mark Williams who somehow forgot to get security markings printed on some of them (quite a lot of them) and then had them run off using EDDC’s own copying facilities without the markings. The second time postal votes have had problems here – last time by having the wrong voting instructions on them.

A number of Plymouth voters are considering legal action under the Human Rights Act following ballot box chaos at June’s general election, the BBC has learned.

More than 1,500 postal ballots weren’t sent out, some voters reported being wrongly turned away at polling stations, and thousands of votes were missed out of the result of one constituency.

Labour’s 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. He would still have won comfortably over Conservative Oliver Colvile.

The Electoral Commission is already investigating. Plymouth City Council says it will not comment until the result of an independent investigation is published in September.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-40851275