Electoral Commission ups to 29 its list of Returning Officers who failed to run elections properly in May

The Electoral Commission has increased to 29 (from an initial 24) its tally of Returning Officers who failed to do their job properly in May’s elections:

  • Allerdale
  • Babergh and Mid-Suffolk
  • Bradford
  • Broxtowe
  • Cheshire East
  • Chichester
  • Darlington
  • Dudley
  • East Devon
  • East Hertfordshire
  • East Lindsey
  • Kingston–Upon–Hull
  • Lewes
  • London Borough of Hounslow
  • Maldon
  • Milton Keynes
  • Peterborough
  • Purbeck
  • Rother
  • Sevenoaks
  • South Lakeland
  • South Oxfordshire
  • Stoke on Trent
  • Swale
  • West Berkshire
  • West Dorset
  • West Lindsey
  • Wolverhampton
  • Wyre Forest

The mistakes involved in these cases were serious as the details below show, and in fact not every Returning Officer was assessed so the 29 may be an under-estimate of the actual number of Returning Officers who failed to meet the performance requirements laid down for the job.

Oddly, when the first 24 were named, the local press in those places was rather muted to put it mildly in its coverage of the local Returning Officer being ruled as having failed to run their elections properly, even when the original mistakes had been covered.

Oddly as this should be a matter of significant concern, especially consider the scope of the mistakes:

Those ROs who we have assessed as not meeting the standards encountered issues in one or more of the following areas:

  • Ballot papers issued to those not entitled to receive them – This includes ROs who issued ballot papers to electors who were not entitled to receive them either at polling stations or in postal ballot packs. Issuing ballot papers only to those entitled to receive them is fundamental to ensuring confidence in the delivery of well-run polls, and errors have the potential to have a serious impact on voters, those standing for election and, ultimately, the result.
  • Early dispatch of poll cards – This includes ROs who dispatched poll cards in their area before the publication of the UK Parliamentary notice of election, which was not in accordance with the legislation.
  • Issues at the count – This includes ROs who made an error in relation to the processing of ballot papers at the count or with the declaration of results.  Issues with the allocation of electors to polling stations – This includes where the number of electors allocated to specific polling stations led to voters encountering a significant wait before being able to cast their vote.
  • Print errors with election material – This includes a range of different print issues with election material which may have led to voter confusion and/or had a potentially negative impact on those standing for election.
  • Errors with nominations – This includes ROs who made an error in their processing of nominations which had a negative impact upon any persons wanting to stand for election, or in the ability of voters to be able to vote easily.
  • Multiple errors – Some authorities experienced more than one issue in their delivery of the elections which either individually or cumulatively may have had a detrimental impact on voters and those standing for election

Now this stage of the Electoral Commission’s review of Returning Officer performance has been completed, the Electoral Commission will begin the new (and welcome) process of deciding whether to recommend that payment be withheld from any Returning Officer for poor performance.

UPDATE: The Electoral Commission’s decision in the end was not to recommend a reduction in pay for any Returning Officer, “on consideration of the gravity, extent and impact of instances of inadequate performance”.

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