Labour calls for OSCE election monitors to be deployed in Barnet

Following the election shambles in Barnet on the 5th May where hundreds of electors were unable to vote, Barnet's Labour councillors have written to Michael Georg Link, the Director of the OSCE’s election monitoring unit to request a mission deployment to Barnet at the forthcoming EU referendum and for the 2018 local elections.

Recent observer mission deployments have included elections in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine.

In the letter, the councillors wrote:

"You may have read about the recent London elections which in one borough were marred by controversy. In the London Borough of Barnet – where we are elected councillors – hundreds, if not thousands of residents were denied their right to vote due to the wrong register of voters being distributed to all 155 polling stations within the borough. Although this error would not have affected the outcome of the vote, the fact that many people were disenfranchised from the democratic process in a country like the United Kingdom should give us all cause for concern.

And sadly this event is not the only election dogged by controversy in recent years in the London Borough of Barnet. Evidence has been presented which shows that at two recent elections voters in Barnet have been disenfranchised. Despite reports being prepared which note these issues after the elections it appears that little action has been taken by the administration running Barnet.

Due to the above we are writing to you to officially request that an election monitoring mission be deployed in the London Borough of Barnet at both the forthcoming European Referendum and also for the 2018 local elections to ensure that confidence in our democratic processes can be restored and trust can be brought back to the system at the earliest possible opportunity."

Commenting on the mission request, West Hendon councillor Adam Langleben said: “Although recent missions to former Soviet Republics and States in the southern hemisphere must be difficult, we are certain that the OSCE will have their work cut out in Barnet. Observer missions exist to make sure that free and fair elections can take place so that the public have full confidence in the democratic process and it is clear that right now such confidence in Barnet is at rock bottom."

Ends.

Notes:

1. Full text of the letter follows:

Michael Georg Link

Director

OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

Ul. Miodowa 10

00-251 Warsaw

Poland

 

By email on 25 May, 2016 to: office@odihr.pl

 

Dear Director Michael Georg Link,

We have read with great interest the work of the OCSE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights recent months, especially in regards to your work in monitoring elections. Your recent missions to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine are much needed and vital to spreading democratic values around the world.

You may have read about the recent London elections which in one borough were marred by controversy[1]. In the London Borough of Barnet – where we are elected councillors – hundreds, if not thousands of residents were denied their right to vote due to the wrong register of voters being distributed to all 155 polling stations within the borough. Although this error would not have affected the outcome of the vote, the fact that many people were disenfranchised from the democratic process in a country like the United Kingdom should give us all cause for concern.

And sadly this event is not the only election dogged by controversy in recent years in the London Borough of Barnet. Evidence has been presented which shows that at two recent elections[2] voters in Barnet have been disenfranchised. Despite reports being prepared which note these issues after the elections it appears that little action has been taken by the administration running Barnet.

Details of the previous problems are below, including details of the post-election reviews, many of the recommendations were never acted upon:

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.

 

The aims of the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights election monitoring directorate are to “assess the extent to which elections respect fundamental freedoms and are characterized by equality, universality, political pluralism, confidence, transparency and accountability.”

Sadly, many residents living in the London Borough of Barnet no longer have the confidence in their administration’s ability to carry out an election where freedoms are respected and accountability is delivered.

Due to the above we are writing to you to officially request that an election monitoring mission be deployed in the London Borough of Barnet at both the forthcoming European Referendum and also for the 2018 local elections to ensure that confidence in our democratic processes can be restored and trust can be brought back to the system at the earliest possible opportunity.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Langleben, Councillor for West Hendon ward,

Barry Rawlings, Leader of the Labour Group

And the following Barnet councillors:

Jess Brayne

Ammar Naqvi

Zakia Zubairi

Devra Kay

Nagus Narenthira

Laurie Williams

Arjun Mittra

Kathy Levine

Anne Hutton

Alan Schneiderman

Andreas Ioannidis

Geof Cooke

Reema Patel

Pauline Coakley Webb

Kath McGuirk

Ross Houston

Jim Tierney

Alison Moore

Alon Or-Bach

Claire Farrier

Paul Edwards

Gill Sargeant

Tim Roberts

Rebecca Challice

Philip Cohen

Agnes Slocombe

Kitty Lyons

Charlie O-Macauley

 

 

 

For more information contact Cllr Adam Langleben: cllr.a.langleben@barnet.gov.uk

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

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