Monday, 25 May 2015

Kent Local Elections 2015: The Curious Case of the Missing Ballot Paper

Now that the dust on the UK General Elections 2015 is settling and we are slowly getting used to the idea of another five years of unfettered Tory rule, it's time to start turning our attention to the handling of election logistics in the county of Kent.

More here.

Quite expectedly, the attention of both the national and local media was fixed on the political drama played out in key electoral battlegrounds, such as Thanet South. As Nigel Farage didn't claim the Isle of Thanet after all and the Tories have been returned to power in Westminster, the status quo has once again been preserved - thanks largely to one of the most antiquated electoral systems on offer. 

Before engaging in an evaluation of the pros and cons of 'first-past-the-post', however,  perhaps we can now find time to focus on something more mundane, i.e. the (mis-) management of electoral logistics in the county of Kent, and get to the bottom of what went wrong in the relevant departments at both Swale Borough and Kent County Council? 

This specifically concerns the questions of why postal voters like myself received incorrect instructions with their ballot papers and why, as in my case, a second ballot paper (Town Council Elections, Watling Ward, Faversham) was entirely missing from the postal voting pack? 

I would also be interested to find out why staff at the council offices were giving out misleading information, when I drew their attention to the missing purple ballot paper following receipt of the letter outlining incorrect voting instructions dated 29th April 2015. (I was in fact advised that the Elections to the local Town Council did not take place this year, all the while local candidates contesting Watling Ward kept on pushing their leaflets through my letterbox. - A somewhat bizarre situation, to say the least.)

When I last attempted to discuss the case of the missing ballot paper with Maidstone on Thursday, 7th May 2015, the relevant official was out for lunch. I can understand that electoral services will be particularly busy on Election Day. Yet, my call hasn't been returned to date and May is nearly over.

Communication from Swale Borough Council drawing attention to incorrect instructions in voting packs

I'm pleased to report that the missing ballot paper arrived the night before the Election and I was in the end able to cast my vote - by physically returning the papers to the polling station on Election Day, which somewhat defeated the object of opting for a postal vote.

Nevertheless, what turned out to be a mere inconvenience to me, may have prevented other postal voters from casting their vote entirely. It undoubtedly also resulted in local candidates, especially those representing smaller parties, losing vital votes. Given the above, it would be extremely interesting to have more clarity on what led to the series of errors at Electoral Services. Freedom of Information Request, anyone?

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