Election law round-up: counting news and postal vote concerns

The Telegraph has run a story highlighting the number of postal voters who fail to complete the paperwork correctly and so lose their vote:

The Electoral Commission found that five per cent of all postal votes cast were found to be unsafe, because people’s signatures did not match or they gave the wrong date of birth.

Translated nationally this would mean that as many as 240,000 voters – one per cent of all those cast – could be discounted.

Although the word “unsafe” is used, the evidence is that it is innocent mistakes which cause the paperwork to be wrong. For example, I’ve seen many examples where people have put today’s date rather than their date of birth on the form. That is innocent voter error rather than attempted fraud.

In another respect, however, the situation is worse than the Telegraph reports it because if the problem was with the original postal vote application form (e.g. someone transposes day and month by mistake) that means any future postal vote where they complete the paperwork correctly will be rejected – because the information doesn’t match the application. People are not told about such errors and so can carry on trying to vote in future elections, thinking they’ve returned the ballot paper and never realising all their votes are void. It’s only when their postal vote application expires that there is a chance of this situation being fixed with a new application.

Meanwhile, despite the extra security checks on postal votes it looks like nearly all the election counts will be carried out overnight.

As The Guardian reports:

An overnight general election result could be possible after all after it emerged that only 42 constituencies plan to start counting votes the next day.

The Electoral Commission has published a document (pdf) explaining which constituencies plan to count when.

It shows that – contrary to expectations that up to one-third would not start counting until the morning of Friday 7 May – 80% plan to begin counting after the polls close on election day, as normal.

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