Agenda item



Report CSD 18121


The Committee received an update from the Chief Executive in his role as Returning Officer on the key issues arising from the Local Council elections held on 3rd May 2018, including the initial findings on the Voter ID Pilot Scheme.


The following issues were raised -


·  It was clarified that the rejected postal votes were not spoiled ballot papers, but were due to the paperwork sent in by the voter not being in order.


·  Some Members called for more efforts to find alternatives to using schools as polling stations, such as church or community halls. It was also suggested that there needed to be more meaningful consultation with ward Members at a stage when they could still affect proposed changes. The Returning Officer confirmed that this was looked at every year, that Members were kept informed and that in some cases it was possible to make arrangements that allowed the schools to remain open when they hosted a polling station. A Member mentioned that Crofton Baptist Church should be used in his ward to avoid having to use Crofton School.


·  A Member commented that the Voter ID Pilot added pressure on Election staff and was not worth pursuing. Another Member suggested that the further Voter ID pilots elsewhere in the country were not needed. The Returning Officer commented that Councillors could lobby their MPs on this issue. The Council had been invited to join the Board monitoring the pilots proposed for 2019.


·  A Member recounted an episode where a voter had arrived late in the day at a polling station only to find that their name had already been crossed off. It was confirmed that a ballot paper could not be issued in these circumstances, and that these cases were always reported to Electoral Services for investigation. One possible cause was the wrong member of a family being crossed off on the register.


·  A Member complained that he was disappointed that the Returning Officer had not taken action when he had reported an incident of intimidation, but that he had felt compelled, in view of his duty of care to candidates and party workers to report the matter to the Police. It was confirmed that while the Returning Officer was charged with ensuring the electoral process was fair he could not be responsible for the conduct of candidates and others involved. The Returning Officer confirmed that he had to make judgements on a daily basis on a variety of such issues.


·  The same Member complained about an incident when he had been secretly recorded - he was advised to take this up outside the meeting.


·  Several Members commented on the role of tellers. The Returning Officer confirmed that they were not part of the electoral process and they were not part of his responsibility - he expected the political parties to guide and control their own tellers. Nevertheless, there was a code of conduct issued by the Electoral Commission and a Notice on the role of tellers which Presiding Officers made available to tellers at their polling stations.


·   A Member commented that there had not been enough done to ensure that hard to reach groups were not disadvantaged by the ID pilot, that information was not made available in other languages and that the Council’s Impact Assessment was superficial. Officers responded that great efforts had been made to contact hard to reach groups, particularly through their groups and representatives, and that there was no evidence of a requirement for translated documents.


·  Some Members reported anecdotal evidence that some people had not voted either as they objected in principle to providing ID, or because they assumed that they did not have the right documents. Officers explained that people with none of the approved documents could still apply for a certificate of identity, although none had been issued.


·  A Member asked for the detailed feedback sent by the Council to the Cabinet Office to be made available to Committee members. The Returning Officer agreed to check with the Cabinet Office whether this could be done.


·  A Member commented that the voter ID Pilot did not appear to have affected turnout. He requested turnout figures for local elections going back to 2002. 


The Chairman joined other Members of the Committee in thanking the Returning Officer and his staff for a smoothly run election - it was noted that the Election Team had won the Team of the Year award at the Bromley Stars.  The Returning Officer confirmed that he would consider all comments.


RESOLVED that the content of the report be noted.

Supporting documents:


Original Text: