Thousands of votes left out from Plymouth Sutton and Devonport result

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.

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2 responses to “Thousands of votes left out from Plymouth Sutton and Devonport result”

  1. Not that unusual, which is why you should always have counting agents. The new Labour MP for Reading, Matt Rodda, “won” Katesgrove ward in 2010 by 22 votes. I demanded a recount… and discovered a bundle of 100 Lib Dem votes had “accidentally” fallen under the table. He eventually lost by 78 votes.

  2. Happened to me in the local county council elections in 2013. the numbers we agreed ad that were declared were different from those published on the coucil web site later the same day. In my case the declared numbers were too high because the person overseeing the count could not use a calculator properly. We won on both ‘counts’ fortunately. I had an interesting discussion with the returning officer on the Monday following! In this year’s elections they had a laptop at each separate division count which made it rather more rigorous and easy to spot errors.

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