CEO and Head of Audit suspended after irregularities in voting at General Election

Here in East Devon there were numerous mistakes made by our election officers but, so far, they have avoided examination or censure.

Nothing will change till electoral officers have to legally submit budgets of exactly how much money they spent (or did not spend), how much extra they were paid to do the job (average £10-20,000 per election, some got much more) AND they come under the Freedom of Information spotlight (they are currently exempted).

“Almost 1,500 voters were unable to take part in a general election contest which was won by just 30 votes, an independent inquiry has concluded.

Two senior officials in Newcastle-under-Lyme were suspended today following damning investigation into the June 8 election.

Newcastle Borough Council chief executive John Sellgren and Elizabeth Dodd, head of audit and elections, have been criticised for a number of issues by the Association of Electoral Administrators.

It found 500 postal voters were disenfranchised, nearly 1,000 potential electors were not included on the voting register and two people were able to vote who were not eligible to.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly held off a charge from Tory Owen Meredith to hold Newcastle-under-Lyme with a reduced majority.

The election cannot be re-run because complaints about the running of a poll must be made within 21 days.

But the probe concluded the result could have been different if the wrongly excluded voters had been allowed to take part.

The investigators it was ‘impossible not to question the result’ and detailed a ‘complex picture of administrative mistakes around registration and postal voting processes’.

There was an ‘inadequate performance by inexperienced and under-resourced elections office staff’, the report found.

Mr Farrelly described the election arrangements as a ‘shambles’ in the aftermath of the poll.

Mr Meredith said today: ‘It is vital lessons are learnt from this experience and that the recommendations of the report are implemented in full.
‘Urgent action must be taken by Newcastle Borough Council to ensure the credibility of upcoming council by-elections in December and the all-out elections in May.

‘Voters will be rightly horrified by the details of the report’s findings and trust in the democratic process in Newcastle-under-Lyme has been badly undermined. Urgent action is needed to restore that trust.

‘Voters have been truly let down by the Council officers and leadership and those involved must consider their positions.’

Council leader Elizabeth Shenton, said: ‘I sincerely apologise on behalf of the council for that situation but we can’t turn the clock back and right any wrong that occurred at that time.’

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: ‘Good planning and open communication are vital to ensure voters can receive the quality of service they deserve.

‘Both our guidance and this independent report recognise these factors.
‘We will now consider this report’s findings as part of our assessment of how Returning Officers performed at June’s election.

‘The Commission will continue to support and challenge the performance of the electoral services department at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to ensure forthcoming elections are well-run.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5125083/1-500-people-STOPPED-taking-election.html

EDDC has other ways of raising cash … but not votes

Owl says: shame they couldn’t put the same amount of effort into getting voters to register. CEO Williams said it was much too dangerous to go around the dark, rural roads in East Devon seeking them out.

Owl hopes the officers tasked with weeding out these miscreants have had good martial arts training for dealing with those elderly widows, widowers and single mums!

And just as well officer time is never costec when accounting for how such an exercise!

Council Tax paying resis who wrongly claim they live alone and get a council tax discount are being targeted in East Devon. Checks are beginning this month to ensure that the 21,000 East Devon householders who currently claim a 25% discount for living alone are still entitled to it.

Councillor Ian Thomas, portfolio holder for finance, said “anyone genuinely claiming a reduction should not be concerned. However, if you are found to be deliberately misleading the council, you could face a penalty of £70, as well as having to repay the discount,” he added.”

[Source: BBC Devon]

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

Do we have ANY statistics on votes at elections? Seems unlikely

It would appear that someone or some agency appears to ask for this information regularly – wonder how many local authorities register the replies that EDDC registers?

“Verification statements for the 2017 general election count

Date submitted: 19 July 2017

Summary of request

1. For each of your constituencies, a copy of your full verification statements for the 2017 general election count, including

(i) for each polling district separately, (a) the number of electors; and (b) the verified number of ballots
(ii) for postal votes,
(a) total postal ballots issued; and
(b) total postal ballots received

2. The same information as in 1), but for the 2015 general election

3. The same information as in 1), but for the 2016 EU referendum
(Note: Some of you sent us this information for the 2016 referendum in response to our survey last year seeking other referendum voting details; if you are one of the authorities who already sent us this, there is no need to send it again, please simply confirm this has already been sent).

4. Please also let us know if the boundaries of any polling districts have changed between the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election. If so, please indicate which polling districts were affected and when the change took effect

Summary of response

1. For each of your constituencies, a copy of your full verification statements for the 2017 general election count, including

(i) for each polling district separately,
(a) the number of electors; and
(b) the verified number of ballots –
This information is not recorded

(ii) for postal votes,
(a) total postal ballots issued; and
(b) total postal ballots received –
This information is not recorded

2. The same information as in 1), but for the 2015 general election –
This information is not recorded

3. The same information as in 1), but for the 2016 EU referendum –
This information is not recorded

(Note: Some of you sent us this information for the 2016 referendum in response to our survey last year seeking other referendum voting details; if you are one of the authorities who already sent us this, there is no need to send it again, please simply confirm this has already been sent).

4. Please also let us know if the boundaries of any polling districts have changed between the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election. If so, please indicate which polling districts were affected and when the change took effect –
This information is not recorded.

Date responded: 27 July 2017″

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/freedom-of-information/freedom-of-information-published-requests/

Electoral Officers might – one day in the distant future – be fully accountable

The Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill is slowly (very, very slowly) wending its way through parliament and, as the title suggests, hopes to extend the reach of the FOI Act. The Statement of Purpose (in full here) sums up the aims:

‘The Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill will seek to make housing associations, local safeguarding children boards, Electoral Registration Officers, Returning Officers and the Housing Ombudsman public authorities for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, whilst making information held by persons contracting with public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000…’

See:
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/freedomofinformationextension.html

for the very, very, very slow timetable.

Make sure you are registered to vote says EDDC Electoral Registration Officer

And will those who don’t return their forms be canvassed for follow-up? Your guess as good as Owl’s since Mr Williams believes it isn’t necessary to follow up and told a parliamentary committee that phone calls (how you get the phone number is a mystery) will suffice:

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

“East Devon residents will soon receive a form asking them to check whether the information that appears on the electoral register about their address is correct.

East Devon District Council is asking residents in East Devon to look out for the form in the post and to make sure that they respond as soon as possible.

The aim of the form is to make sure 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.

Being registered to vote gives you the right to vote in elections and can also improve your credit rating

Mark Williams, Electoral Registration Officer at East Devon said: “It’s really important that residents respond as soon as possible, so we can make sure we have the right details on the electoral register for every address in East Devon. Simply check the form when it arrives and respond as soon as you can.”

If you’re not currently registered, your name will not appear on the form. However if you decide to apply to register, you will still need to complete the form and then send it back to us. The easiest way to get yourself registered is to go online to apply to register at

http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

or we’ll send you information explaining how to do this in the post. You can also provide the information over the telephone.

It’s particularly important that anyone who has moved address recently looks out for the form and checks whether they are registered.

Research by the independent Electoral Commission indicates that recent home movers are far less likely to be registered than those that have lived at the same address for a long time. The research showed that across Great Britain, 94 % of people who have been at their property for more than sixteen years will be registered compared to 40% of people who have lived at an address for less than one year.

Any residents who have any questions can contact the registration team on 01395 517402 or electoralservices@eastdevon.gov.uk”

http://www.devonlive.com/residents-in-east-devon-urged-not-to-miss-important-voter-registration-information-in-the-post/story-30463309-detail/story.html