#Copeland: 15yr ballot-count veteran echoes concerns over ‘irregularities’

Since the by-elections in Copeland and Stoke the week before last, the SKWAWKBOX has revealed concerns raised by electoral analysts and others with experience of conducting election counts, regarding the propriety of the vote-count in Whitehaven for the Copeland constituency.

Technical analysis and the results of Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the detailed voting breakdown are still pending, but this blog has been contacted by an extremely experienced vote-counter who is also concerned at the ‘unusual’ aspects of the count, which were commented on by the BBC’s reporter at the count and highlighted by this blog.


The comments were sent in by a Yorkshire-based woman that we’ll call ‘Jane’:

I have worked as both a poll clerk and a counter at local and general elections in Kirklees, West Yorkshire,  for the last 15 years or so.  Copeland is a much more rural area and less built-up than Kirklees so I would expect there to be more postal votes in Copeland, but not to the extent claimed by the council (as the election authority).

At the last election I worked at as a poll clerk (the by-election triggered by Jo Cox’s murder) there were actually more proxy votes  than postal votes handed in on the day.  The number of both postal and proxy votes is increasing, probably as people become aware that they don’t have to miss voting or relatives realise infirm or disabled voters can exercise their right to vote, but the ‘supposed increase’ in postal votes in Copeland compared with the last time for which figures are available is more than I would expect.

Like your correspondent ‘John’ I, too, am puzzled by the sacks of votes ‘hanging around’ to be counted with staff sitting waiting – apart from anything, that is poor time management (unless, of course, there’s a reason for not counting them at that time).


Postal votes are verified (checked to see that they are valid and counted – as in counting how many postal votes have been received, not how many cast for each candidate) before the election date, and are then added to the verified papers cast on election day at the main count for sorting into candidates, and then actually counted.

The Electoral Commission [should be getting involved]… to both confirm what the normal process should be… and instigate an investigation, or even recount.

The results of the detailed analysis and the responses to the FOI requests will be crucial to understanding whether there has been a miscarriage of democracy in the Copeland by-election, but concerns over the result and the process by which it was achieved continue to mount.

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  1. I’m really grateful that you have highlighted this. The result was extremely shocking. I do hope that the Electoral Commission makes a determined effort to investigate.

  2. This issue can not be left to run. Keep it public. and then it can be added to the Tory election fraud cases still outstanding.

  3. It’s worth noting that the EC were present at the count, and it appears that neither they, the losing candidates nor their agents have raised any concerns.

    Attempting to second guess all those people, as well as all the counters and press present, by looking at one still photo or a TV screen appears quite ambitious.

    As with earlier coverage of this, I would be interested to know exactly who is being accused of exactly what in breach of precisely which legislation.

    Previous election frauds and/or alleged frauds have involved inventing voters, bulk completion of postal votes, over expenditure etc. I’m not aware of any previous frauds, or allegations of such, at counts. Indeed so many people would have to be involved, actively or passively, as to make it extremely difficult.

    The “electoral analysts” quoted have, of course been discredited in this firstly by claiming that data on postal voting in the 2015 GE didn’t exist, when it is in fact in the public domain, and secondly claiming that they can already conclude that this by election has not been conducted lawfully, without supplying any basis for this conclusion.

    1. Graham, I’m going to unapprove you soon. You keep asking questions about your preferred strawman that has nothing to do with what the articles say. It’s tiresome and a distraction – and frankly, life’s too short to keep accommodating you.

      1. I would agree that posting comments putting a different slant on the conduct of the Copeland by election (surely the subject of the article) and pointing out the shortcomings of the electoral analysts (mentioned in the article) is a distraction from the continued attempts to portray the outcome of the election as somehow “dodgy” without actually specifying who may have done what to make it so.

        Specifically on my last comment:

        Para 1 is straightforward fact so far as I know; if you know differently then you can put up your facts.

        Para 2 is an opinion, but, I think a reasonable one

        Para 3 is an expression of frustration as previous numerous enquiries as to specifically what is alleged have gone unanswered.

        Para 4 is a statement of fact regarding previous frauds, and a statement of my knowledge re counting fraud.; if you know differently then you can put up your facts.

        Para 5 is certainly open to challenge, but is my reading of what Applied IF have said measured against the facts as they are in the public domain.

        If you wish to “unapprove” me – which I interpret as censorship – that’s your decision (you’ve already censored two posts relating to JC’s third pension), but in my opinion such suppression of alternative, reasoned, courteous and polite comment would sit uneasily with the concept of the freedom of expression which you claim to espouse.

  4. I’ve just re read this, and note that “Jane” says:

    “Copeland is a much more rural area and less built-up than Kirklees so I would expect there to be more postal votes in Copeland, but not to the extent claimed by the council (as the election authority).”

    I’m not aware that there has been a number issued yet for the total postal vote this time, so is “Jane” alleging something fishy from previous elections?

  5. Can Jane tell us if proxy or postal votes handed in on the day a) get verified at the polling station b) do they go into the public black boxes or are they kept separately & c) would these sorts of vote in any circumstances be sent separately to the counting centre before polls close?
    What I’m getting at here is, if there were a large number of proxy/postal votes handed in on the day, together with a far more strung-out constituency than Stoke Central, and a turn-out roughly a third higher than there, how is it the result was counted & delivered as comparatively early as it was, remembering that if, say, 5,000 of that 9,080 arrived on the day, how were they able to verify those (more complicated process) from scratch in such a short space of time?

    For the record, at the general election, 15,000 postal votes were issued in Copeland, and over 9,000 were used, so would be very interesting to see how many were issued this time.

  6. The problems of potential fraud over postal voting has been going on for years. It’s time to end postal votes.

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