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Council election blunder – wrong results declared in Forest Hill 2 July 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Uncategorized.
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Lewisham Council have admitted they miscounted local election votes in Forest Hill in May, resulting in 1708 votes being counted twice and the wrong results being officially recorded.

The blunder became clear when the results were published and the number of votes cast came to more than three times the number of ballot papers issued, when three is the maximum number of legal votes anyone can cast.

Lewisham Liberal Democrats raised this with the council after it was drawn to our attention by a local resident.

At a hastily convened meeting with candidates and their agents the council’s chief executive conceded that a mistake had been made. He explained that what had happened was that two groups of counters had been working to a single tally sheet for recording the votes they counted. One group entered their data and it went to the accountants for entering in the official spreadsheet. The tally sheet was then recalled so the other group’s figures could be added. The updated totals were then given to the accountants who added them in. The first group’s totals were therefore added in twice. The result was that 1708 votes – about one in six of all votes cast – were accounted for twice.

George Crozier commented:

“It beggars belief that a basic error on this scale could take place without the Returning Officer or any of his staff spotting it. Candidates and their agents watch closely at the count to make sure votes go onto the right piles and are recorded correctly. But there is very little they can do when correctly recorded tally sheets are entered into the computer twice.

“It is very hard to change a result once it has been declared. The council could easily have faced the expense of taking themselves to an electoral court if this error had changed who was elected. As it is, because it did not change who won, we have accepted that rather than face unnecessary expense the council can let the originally declared result officially stand, even though it includes a technically impossible mismatch between ballot papers and votes. However we are pressing the council to publish the actual number of votes cast too so that the people of Forest Hill have their votes accurately recorded.”

The council chief executive has promised us that the council will put safeguards in place to ensure there can be no repetition of this error.

Margot Wilson welcomed this news:

“The council must take action to make sure a blunder like this can never happen again. A simple system of stamping tally sheets as having been entered into the computer would stop them being entered twice. A check of the number of votes cast in a ward against the number of ballot papers included in the count to make sure they are not incompatible would have shown immediately what had happened.

“It is important for the people of Lewisham to be able to have confidence in their election results and in the council’s ability to count them accurately.”

 

Forest Hill ward 2014 local election result

The actual number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows (official and declared total in brackets):

Hilton (Lab) 1869 (2115)

Bernards (Lab) 1718 (1945)

Upex (Lab) 1595 (1814)

Feakes (Lib Dem) 1118 (1292)

Crozier (Lib Dem) 732 (866)

Wilson (Lib Dem) 707 (839)

Taylor (Green) 693 (786)

Jones (Green) 676 (764)

Thompson (Green) 545 (615)

Ferguson (Con) 537 (622)

Squires (Con) 506 (592)

Tebble (Con) 437 (518)

Oakley (UKIP) 378 (419)

Cain (PBP) 378 (408)

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