“First of all I wish to congratulate all the people counting votes on election night. I thought they did a magnificent job in dealing with voting ballots quickly and efficiently.
“Last year at the general election count we experienced difficulties with how the count was organised and the procedures in place for dealing with spoilt votes. Following the election I spoke to the Chief Executive of West Lancashire District Council as the returning officer to raise my concerns. The problem is we had exactly the same problems all over again this year.”
“For a candidate the feeling of losing an election is bad enough. It is made worse when you feel votes have not been counted correctly, voters have been given the wrong advice at the polling station or that voters never received their postal votes or voting cards.”
“I also think that because of the poor organisation the vote takes longer than it needs too. Even the counters were bored and tired by the amount of time the process took.”
“In my 30 years experience of attending election counts I have never seen them carried out as it is here in West Lancashire. When serious questions like these are raised it only undermines the credibility of the election process. I have spoken to the returning officer and will speak to him further on this matter. We must have robust and fair systems in place when counting votes in elections.”
In other local authorities the returning officer will call the candidates and agents to one side and go through each spoilt ballot in turn to ensure complete transparency when allowing or disallowing votes. In West Lancashire spoilt ballots are shown to any person standing by the counting area. At no time is the candidate or agent asked to identify themselves. There is a lack of assurance that any spoilt votes have been handled consistently in all wards.