Denbighshire County Council admits votes were counted wrong

Voters had to take some care when voting in Prestatyn North on May 3rd, as the Labour candidate was called Paul Penlington and the Conservative Allan Pennington. But the council’s counting staff did not take the same care when it came to the count, as WalesOnline reports:

Returning officer and council chief executive Mohammed Mehmet said a block of ballot papers which should have been allocated to the Labour candidate Paul Penlington were “inadvertently” allocated to Tory Allan Pennington, who won the last of the three seats available on the ward.

Mr Penlington or Labour now have until May 24 to decide whether to apply to the election court to have the ballot papers scrutinised by a judge – a procedure which could cost them a four-figure sum.

Hat-tip: Maria Pretzler.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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  • Paul Valentine 20th May '12 - 11:55am

    Surely a lesson, if any was needed, in staying awake and alert at a count. If the result was close, asking the returning officer to check bundles would have even uncovered this, surely?

  • Tony Greaves 20th May '12 - 2:32pm

    If it was a 3-seat ward how come it was a “block of votes”? There would have been some votes for the one unlucky candidate which could have been wrongly allocated but surely not the number reported?

    Was it a cock-up on the tallying up of numbers from counting sheets?

    Where were the agents? (Or is it a Council where such people are kept well away from the votes and tally sheets?)

    However it happened I hope the Returning Officer is stripped of his fee for the election.

    Tony Greaves

  • @Tony
    You know when a party fields a full slate of candidates (in this case, Labour and Conservative and maybe 3 of the Independents that were campaigning as a slate) they count those papers and then count all the papers with a mix of votes. What happened in Denbighshire is that Allan Pennington (Conservative) got credited with the votes from people who voted all Labour and Paul Penlington (Labour) got credited with the votes from people who voted all Tory with the result that Mr Pennington was elected with two Labour candidates.

    It is interesting that neither agent nor candidate appears to have noticed this at the count and that even now Labour aren’t protesting against the result. One possibility is that if the gap between the all Labour and all Tory votes was under 191 votes then Paul Penlington wouldn’t have been elected anyway and an Independent candidate (Michael German) would have been elected instead. As Mike German used to be a Labour councillor before helping found the Democratic Alliance of Wales, it’s possible that Labour preferred to have a Tory elected than that Independent.

  • tony dawson 20th May '12 - 8:30pm

    Could I suggest another technical reason why the result might not have been challenged? It relates to what precisely the returning officer permits to be scrutinised, how the information gleaned from the counting process is stored and combined in a multicouncillor election.

    In 2000 I was the agent in a tightly contested all-up election which was eventually declared with two seats for Tories and the third seat to the sole Lib Dem sitting councillor. This was after a recount which we demanded when the initially declared result placed one of our candidates higher in the order than another candidate of ours who we knew to be more popular. The result of the recount took our (sitting councillor) from second to third place. It also placed our other two candidates (non-elected) in the anticipated order.

    The arrogant (first time) returning officer allowed our scrutineers to watch the marking of the ‘five bar gates’ of the candidates from the ballot papers. He also allowed us to watch as they pre-removed ‘straight slate’ ballot papers and counted them separately. What he did not allow was anyone to look at what he did ‘behind the benches’ ie to scrutinise the number-aggregation and arithmetic from which he declared the final result, despite the fact that this was [b]substantially[/b] different to what he had originally intended to declare. I protested formally but it was 1.30 am and my candidates all told me they wanted to go home – they were worried that another recount would have pushed the sole elected Lib Dem councillor from third place to fourth! As far as I can see, there is no clear protocol requirement for Returning officers in multicouncillor elections and if the returning officer says ‘no’ to requests from agents to behave reasonably then agents have little they can do short of very expensive court proceedings.

    What I cannot understand is how the Returning officer himself, in this case, could declare his own result to be wrong (and why) so quickly after announcing it. He should, surely, resign in shame and give his fee to charity?

  • Surely if the returning officer has declared a miscount, the loser should not have to pay for the judge to scrutinise it?

  • Interesting to note that the Labour party candidate, Paul Penlington, is a former Lib Dem PPC.

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