Allegations of electoral fraud in Halifax

Police are investigating allegations of electoral fraud in Halifax after unusually high numbers of postal ballots were hand-delivered to polling stations on May 6.

From the Independent:

More than 4,000 ballots arrived in the West Yorkshire town on 6 May, with the majority being delivered directly to polling stations. Although there are no rules forbidding the delivery of postal ballots by hand, such a large number arriving on the day of the election itself is considered unusual and risks overwhelming the already-stretched safety checks aimed at minimising fraud.

Local Tory officials raised questions over the validity of some of the postal ballots after they discovered that a number of empty and derelict addresses in one particular ward had voters registered to them. They allege that Labour Party activists spent the days before the election “farming” postal ballots to deliver directly on 6 May and have asked both the police and the Electoral Commission to investigate.

Liberal Democrat Lord Shutt of Greetland has written to the Electoral Commission, outlining his concerns about the count, and demanding a review of the procedures in Halifax on election night.

From the Halifax Evening Courier:

Lord Shutt claims procedures were not followed during the count, which was for both the Halifax and Calder Valley constituencies, and some ballot boxes from the Todmorden ward were emptied out of sight of scrutineers.

He is also concerned how bundles of votes were assembled on the night and the fact there had been a late flurry of postal votes including those handed in at polling stations.

“In Calderdale those last-minute postal votes were taken to another place in Halifax where again there could not be scrutiny as all the candidates and scrutineers were at the count centre,” said Lord Shutt.

The Electoral Commission’s guidance for Returning Officers states that although postal ballot papers may be opened at a venue other than the count, 48 hours’ notice must be given to agents and candidates, so that they can inspect the process:

Postal ballot papers at the count

  • 3.19 There may also be some unopened postal ballot papers to be processed at the count, which will include those that have been handed in at polling stations or delivered to the (Acting) Returning Officer’s office on polling day. The (Acting) Returning Officer may choose to open these postal votes at the count venue itself or elsewhere, for example in the election office. Whichever location is chosen, the (Acting) Returning Officer must give 48 hours’ notice in writing to each election agent and individual candidate detailing when and where each opening is to take place in order to allow them to inspect the process.
  • 3.20 As part of their consideration as to where to open these postal votes, (Acting) Returning Officers need to remember that this part of the process is open to candidates, agents, observers and Commission representatives, and that it should be possible for them to observe proceedings.
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