A damning investigation into the 5th May election shambles in Barnet has now been published.
The report details a shocking litany of poor planning and organisation, unacceptable lack of proper management oversight and a system that is not robust enough to guard against human error.
The report states that: "The electoral process should never be the story, but in Barnet it was. This was very serious. The act of disenfranchisement is the removal of a fundamental right. For that to happen as a direct result of the system (and people) who's role it is to enfranchise and run elections raises legitimate, significant and serious concerns."
The report highlights that:
- the selection of electors for inclusion in the registers and the printing of the electoral registers was left to a junior member of staff.
- nobody checked the registers after they were printed to ensure they were correct.
- there was no management oversight of this critical process.
- Presiding Officers who normally check and sign-off the contents of their Election Day box were told that they didn't have to because this had already been done by the elections team.
- this normal procedure was not done because the room used for storing the boxes was too small.
- one Presiding Officer did check his box the night before and immediately reported his concern that the register was incorrect to the person that had printed the registers but this was ignored and not escalated.
- the same Presiding Officer raised the issue again before polls opened in the morning and finally did receive a replacement complete register before 7am.
-Other Presiding Officers noticed the error when polls opened and tried to call the election hotline but could not get through because the system was overloaded because of the volume of calls - one made 130 calls before they got through.
- the Returning Officer was not informed about any of this until 7:19am.
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings said: "This damning report highlights a staggering and unacceptable catalogue of basic errors.
"These very basic tasks that should have been an automatic part of the council's election preparations were simply not done, and there was absolutely no management oversight.
"While the recommendations to resolve these narrow issues are sensible it does not address the wider problems identified over successive elections that have been picked up in previous election review reports that are evidence of systemic failures, and therefore it does not restore confidence in the ability of Barnet Council to run the EU Referendum.
"If such basic systems have been shown to be completely absent, how do we know what other basic things are not being done?
"The report vindicates our call for an independent "end-to-end" wider review of electoral services to include looking at resourcing and staffing.
"Clearly lessons have not been learned from previous election reviews such as concerns about election preparations, the inadequacy of the electoral register, the administration of polling cards and postal votes, and communications on Election Day.
"Until this is done another local authority with a better track record of running elections should run the operations for the EU Referendum in Barnet.
“This investigation has been an extremely elaborate exercise, enrolling a senior officer from another local authority, just to find out who pressed the button to print the registers and why nobody checked the printed registers before they were distributed to Presiding Officers."
1. A link to the election investigation report: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=174&MId=8877&Ver=4
2. For more from the Barnet Labour Group on this issue see:
For more information contact Cllr Barry Rawlings: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568