Barnet electors disenfranchised at two previous elections

Barnet electors were disenfranchised by administrative errors in at least two previous elections according to election review reports for the 2008 London Elections and the 2010 Parliamentary and Local Elections, prompting concerns from Labour councillors that lessons are not being learned.

2008 London Elections:

- 3 polling stations had late deliveries of ballot papers and could not start issuing them until 7:20-7:25am despite polls opening at 7am.

- 3 polling stations ran out of ballot papers - one for 80 minutes and another for approximately 30 minutes

The election review report says "This process caused distress to the Presiding Officers concerned, anger amongst electors unable to vote and possibly 30 electors not casting their votes."

2010 General and Local Elections:

- there were long queues at some polling stations.

- 12-14 voters who were in the queue before 10pm at a polling station in West Hendon were turned away by the Presiding Officer when polls closed at 10pm.

- other witnesses suggest that this number was higher - perhaps 30-40.

- proxy votes were issued with the wrong names on them.

- some postal votes were received late or not at all.

- 26 complaints about the elections were made by members of the public and Hendon Labour Party submitted a dossier of 91 complaints and comments about the process.

In both reviews election planning and lack of experience of elections staff are identified as issues that needed resolving.

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings said: "While it clearly did not affect the results of the elections in 2008, and this year, it is unacceptable that anyone should be disenfranchised because of careless and silly errors.

"The same issues seem to be coming up election after election, but Barnet Council do not seem to be learning the lessons of previous elections - better planning and more experience and resourcing in Electoral Services. 

"These are political matters as it is down to the Tory administration what resources are made available.

"I have made it clear to the Council that the investigation into this year's blunders must look at pre-election planning and whether the lessons have been learned from previous elections - there must be some political accountability at the end of this."

The London Assembly have passed a motion today calling for another Local Authority "with a record of excellent electoral administration" to take over the running of the EU Referendum in Barnet.

Ends.

Notes:

1. Summary of 2008 London Elections Review:

In 2008 polling stations located at Courtland JMI School, Barnet Impact and Dollis Infant School, had late deliveries of ballot papers and could not start issuing them until 7:20-7:25am despite polls opening at 7am.

Three polling stations located at Goldsmith Avenue, N11 (Box 25 and 26)and St Peters Church, Edgware (Box 160) ran out of ballot papers due to a software error that meant no ballot papers were allocated to Box 26 and there was an over allocation of ballot papers for Box 25. Election staff split the number between the two but did not realise this would be insufficient.

Calls from Presiding Officers at Stations 25 and 26 "were not acted upon with the level of seriousness/urgency required" according to the Review report. Station 26 ran out of ballot papers for 80 minutes and Station 25 for approximately 30 minutes. The report says "This process caused distress to the Presiding Officers concerned, anger amongst electors unable to vote and possibly 30 electors not casting their votes."

The Review report also says: "It is hard to work out why the many calls from Stations 25/26 did not elicit an appropriate response..."

The 2008 Review report identified problems with preparation for the elections, problems with communications on the day and inexperience of staff, and its recommendations included that:

- A thorough, possibly independent, review of Barnet's elections processes from end to end "would probably be timely".

- Future elections should be prepared for on a project basis with full time officers seconded sufficiently in advance.

- A proper call management and recording system is a necessity on election day.

2. 2010 General and Local Elections:

In 2010 there were long queues at some polling stations - particularly Dollis Infants School and Algernon Road Multi-Cultural Centre in West Hendon. The Presiding Officer at Dollis Infants reported he turned 12-14 voters away at 10pm who had been in the queue before 10pm, although other witnesses suggest that this number was higher - perhaps 30-40 - and Hendon Labour Party said they were aware of people deciding not to wait in the queue and therefore not to vote.

In addition, some proxy votes were issued with the wrong names on them, and some postal votes were received late or not at all. The Review found this was because the external printers were not able to meet the agreed deadline and that "there was no written contract in place with the print company, which meant there was insufficient clarity in respect of specific service requirements - in particular around deadlines."

26 complaints about the elections were made by members of the public and Hendon Labour Party submitted a dossier of 91 complaints and comments about the process.

As in 2008, the 2010 Review report also identified problems with preparation for the elections and inexperience of staff and stated that - "the team lacked the deep expertise of election process and regulations that some other councils benefit from as a result of having an experienced election manager." and that "The project plan...did not contain enough contingency planning and should have been more detailed."

The Review report recommendations included that:

- the appointment of an experienced elections manager should be considered prior to the next large-scale election

- there should be a review of the location of polling stations and of polling districts to ensure that they have an appropriate number of electors.

- A more detailed project plan for the next election, with clearer contingency arrangements should be put in place.

3. For copies of the Election Review reports for 2008 and 2010 discussed at General Functions Committee see: 

11 September 2008 – Review of London Elections: 

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/Data/General%20Functions%20Committee/200809111900/Agenda/Document%204.pdf

25 October 2010 – Parliamentary and Local Elections Review: 

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/Data/General%20Functions%20Committee/201010251900/Agenda/Document%2013.pdf

For more information contact:

Cllr Barry Rawlings: cllr.b.rawlings@barnet.gov.uk

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

 

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