Feniton Parish Council

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FENITON ELECTORAL ISSUES – MAY 2015

The Parish Council have received complaints from voters concerning the performance of the person running the polling station in Feniton during the election on 7th May 2015. The Chairman has raised these concerns with the Returning Officer for East Devon. The resulting emails are listed below:

From: Martyn Smith
Sent: 19 May 2015 08:55
To: Mark Williams
Subject: Electoral issues – Feniton

Dear Mr Williams

I am writing to you as Returning Officer for East Devon to raise some very serious irregularities with the conduct of the polling station at Feniton during the recent elections.

The Parish Council has received a number of complaints that voters were turned away from the station if they did not have their polling cards with them. They were told to go home and return with their cards if they wanted to vote. This is an outrageous abuse, as it may have made it easier for the man running the station, but was totally incorrect in law. It was also exacerbated by his rude and patronising attitude.

A number of individuals tried to vote on the way to work, but were turned away. It is therefore very likely they did not return because of the attitude of this man.

I have also received a complaint from someone who did have her card, but had a postal vote for one of the elections, but could vote personally in the other. She was told she could not vote and to go away and sort it out. She was offered no help or advice what so ever. She went home and after a number of phone calls, your office rang the polling station to tell them that she could vote. When she returned, the man made some unpleasant comment on the lines of “here she is again”. She made the comment to me that women laid down their lives for the right to vote and she wasn’t going to be put off by someone who clearly, rather than helping her, put obstacles in her way.

The right to vote is enshrined in law and the Returning Officer and his staff are charged with ensuring that right is offered to all who have that right. The man running the polling station has effectively disenfranchised a number of voters, removing from them their legal rights.

I would be very grateful if you could fully investigate this very unfortunate matter and let me know what action you intend to take.

Yours sincerely

Martyn Smith

Chairman

Feniton Parish Council

From: Mark Williams 
Sent: 19 May 2015 10:28
To: Martyn Smith
Cc: Jill Humphreys
Subject: RE: Electoral issues – Feniton – UNCLASSIFIED:

 

Dear Mr Smith,

 Thank you for this e-mail.

 As you know, Feniton fell under the Tiverton & Honiton Parliamentary Constituency so the polling station was actually administered by Mid Devon District Council rather than myself. Training for the roles of Presiding Officer and Poll Clerk was provided by Mid Devon so I cannot say for sure what advice was given with regard to poll cards for example.

 That being said, any complaint is concerning. I do know that the PO and PC have been used by me before and there have never been any previous complaints. The ‘man’ you refer to was the poll clerk and not the presiding officer but I have made a note for future reference that it may not be appropriate to use his services at future elections.

 I trust this is of assistance.

 Yours sincerely,

 Mark Williams

EDDC

From: Martyn Smith
Sent: 19 May 2015 10:56
To: Mark Williams
Cc: Jill Humphreys
Subject: RE: Electoral issues – Feniton – UNCLASSIFIED:

Dear Mr Williams

Thank you for your quick response. It is very much appreciated.

Do I take it from your reply that you are not responsible for the conduct of the election in this part of East Devon and that I should be addressing these issues with the Returning Officer at Mid Devon?

I believe those voters who may well have been disenfranchised are entitled to a proper explanation and, although, I welcome your comment that it may not be appropriate to use the individual in question in future, it does not deal with the matter in hand.

I would be grateful if you could let me know how we can progress this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

Yours sincerely

Martyn Smith

From: Mark Williams 
Sent: 19 May 2015 11:58
To: Martyn Smith
Cc: Jill Humphreys
Subject: RE: Electoral issues – Feniton – UNCLASSIFIED:

 

Dear Mr Smith,

 Thank you for this e-mail.

 If the poll clerk at the polling station was the person who is complained about (and not for example a teller outside the polling station) then factually he was employed on the day by the Returning Officer for Mid Devon rather than myself. He also received his training for the recent set of elections from Mid Devon.

 I wouldn’t want however it to be thought that I am saying ‘it’s not my problem’ as the gentleman has been used by me before and my team allocated him to the polling station on behalf of Mid Devon. Mid Devon then took over from there.

 From my perspective I have never had this sort of complaint before as I make it very clear to the staff I train that a polling card is not necessary and their job is to try and find the person on the register. If they cannot then they are advised to phone us from the polling station so that we can resolve the situation direct. I feel sure that the Returning Officer for Mid Devon would give the same advice.

 If what you have relayed is accurate then I can only apologise and say that the poll clerk was acting outside his authority and I will endeavour to ensure that he is not used again. As an aside, finding enough staff for polling station duty is proving to be increasingly problematic. I know that Jill was phoning round as late as 4pm on the Wednesday trying to fill spaces where people had dropped out or otherwise decided they no longer wanted the employment.

 Yours sincerely,

 Mark Williams

EDDC

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