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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