Hearing starts into the case of the missing Stoke ballot paper

From The Stoke Sentinel newspaper:

A PUBLIC inquiry has opened into whether a Stoke-on-Trent City Council election was held according to the law…

In October, Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey counted the ballot papers behind closed doors and ruled a public hearing would have to take place in Stoke-on-Trent. The two-day inquiry began at Hanley Town Hall yesterday.

Ms Maley, of Eaton Street, Northwood, lost out to Liberal Democrat candidate Dave Sutton after several recounts – by just one vote…

It has previously been discovered that 742 postal vote envelopes were counted before election night, of which 26 were rejected, leaving 716. But only 715 were accounted for after the official count.

The one missing slip could have given Mrs Maley a tie, if it was in her favour.

Of potentially the greatest significance for other elections is the question of the accuracy of machines used to process postal ballots:

The hearing also heard that a machine which verified postal vote ballot papers only had a record of 712.

A range of different possible explanations for the difference between this figure of 712 and the totals of 715 or 716 has been offered. However, if the question of the machines’ accuracy stays disputed then this case might result in councils having to tighten up their procedures for checking that machinery is counting accurately.

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