High Court orders recount in Denbighshire election mix-up

Previously we reported how a block of votes for Labour candidate Paul Penlington were wrongly counted as being for similarly named Conservative rival Allan Pennington in the Prestatyn North ward count this May.

The High Court has now ordered a recount:

Election countDenbighshire blamed human error after votes cast for Labour’s Paul Penlington were counted for Allan Pennington.

The council has admitted the Labour candidate would have won if his votes had been correctly allocated…

The recount will take place amidst conditions of strict secrecy in front of a senior High Court official and in the presence of Mr Pennington, Mr Penlington and council representatives.

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

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4 Comments

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Jul '12 - 12:30pm

    No problem over the order for a recount – it’s obvious really.

    However the 2 names are so similar that it looks negligent on the part of the returning officer at the election. Did they ensure that the counters paid especially careful attention to counting the ballot papers for this particular ward? If the RO was negligent then they ought to be paying the costs. As it is – no doubt the council tax payers will be picking up the tab for this High Court hearing.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Jul '12 - 8:15am

    So they’ve never heard of ‘bundle flick’ checking in Denbighshire? Given that the names were so similar, you would think that extra care would obviously be taken – and not to do so went beyond ‘human error’ and into the realms of the negligent?

    And what are the chances of a Returning Officer paying for any costs from his/her own pocket? Somewhat less than zero, I fear.

  • Roger Stephens 30th Jul '12 - 9:25am

    Re “nonconformistradical’s” point about the RO picking up the tab, I believe (and Mark will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong) that when the top council official acts as RO he/she is doing this as an independent person and not as a council employee. So they should be liable – but no doubt have some sort of indemnity insurance.

  • David Boothroyd 31st Jul '12 - 11:40am

    It’s the normal rule that in a case where the wrong result was declared as a result of Returning Officer mistake, the costs (for both Petitioner and Respondent) are awarded against the Returning Officer. It’s up to the local authority whether to penalise the RO personally.

    These counting mistakes happen from time to time. In 2011 there was the unusual situation in Nottinghamshire where a mistake in a split ward resulted in the wrong member of a Liberal Democrat husband and wife team being elected, so the husband had to petition against the wife.

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