Returning officer forced to take QC advice after printers’ errors casts doubt on March Town Council North Ward result

Ballot box

Ballot box - Credit: Archant

Returning officer Paul Medd has revealed that a printers’ error meant 58 ballot papers were incorrectly issued in March North but that only town council seats could be affected.

Mr Medd said the error was confined to one book of 100 ballot papers for the town council ward out of a total of 180,000 ballot papers printed for the various elections held on the same day.

The returning officer revealed the mistake was spotted very early on by the presiding officer at the polling station at Westwood Primary School.

“The presiding officer and polling clerks withdrew the mis printed ballot papers immediately,” he said. “At that time 56 ballot papers had been issued to voters.”

He revealed that all other presiding officers were contacted across NE Cambs and every ballot book checked.

“No other printing errors have been found,” he said.

What happens now is that the 56 misprinted ballot papers will be included in the verification process “as their issue is recorded as part of the polling station’s ballot paper account.

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“However they will clearly have to be rejected at the counting of the votes as the list of candidates is not that for the town council election.”

He added: “The Electoral Commission and Timothy Straker, QC, specialising in electoral law have been consulted and confirmed there is no legal recourse to immediately remedy the situation.

“Furthermore the QC has fully endorsed the approach taken in dealing with this matter,”

Mr Medd said the count for the March North Ward would proceed on the basis of the valid votes cast and the result will be declared accordingly.

However he said a petition presented either by four or more persons who voted or who had a right to vote can be presented within 21 days. This could see the election in the one ward re-run.

This is the first time parish, town, district and a General Election has been held on the same day in NE Cambs.

The ballot error happened when names of the district council candidates for March North were replicated on a separate ballot paper for the same ward –seven in total but not all the same candidates.

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