Missing: one marked register

News via the Press Association:

The SNP demanded an inquiry after it emerged that a record of everyone who voted in last year’s Glenrothes by-election has gone missing.

The party had asked to see the marked registers from November’s crucial by-election – which resulted in a shock victory for Labour.

I’m not hugely surprised by this, as after the 2005 general election there were numerous complaints from people who tried to access the marked register for their constituency about the records being in a poor shape, delayed for long periods on in part missing. The rules then were that marked registers were sent in to contractors working on behalf of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, who were rather complacent about the problems as this written question in Parliament demonstrated:

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on what dates marked registers from the 2005 general election were received; what assessment her Department has made of the arrangements for storing the registers securely before being despatched to the Department; and if she will make a statement. [7701]

Ms Harman: Delivery of the marked electoral registers to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery usually occurs within a three week period after a general election. It is the duty of individual returning officers to arrange the delivery of all general election documentation to the Clerk of the Crown, either personally or through the Royal Mail as the universal service provider. Clear guidance is provided to returning officers covering the way in which documentation is to be packaged to enable secure and safe delivery.

In other words: ‘we don’t know on what dates records were received, we haven’t made an assessment, and let’s shift the buck around a bit’. Woking’s marked register was lost in its entirety and although in other Parliamentary questions the government stuck to the line that this was the only data lost, that didn’t seem to chime with people’s experiences.

UPDATE: Guido has more on the story.

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This entry was posted in Election law and News.


  • When I visited a library in Auckland NZ I was astonished to find an official publication that showed the `polling district` of a constituency with the amount per party – even if it was a small community of about 100 on an island!

  • Would it not be better to have a copy of GE MR officially stored at the Town Hall with a copy going to Westminster?

  • I take it Labour haven’t got a copy by any chance? Perhaps the SNP would like to ask the relevant minister a question on the offchance ie when the answer hasn’t been rehearsed

  • Lorna Spenceley 3rd Feb '09 - 2:26pm

    Marked registers from a crucial polling district in Harlow went missing a few years ago. It seems bizarre in this day and age that local authorities should (as I understand it) be forbidden to take copies before entrusting irreplaceable documents to the vagaries of the post.

  • David Heigham 3rd Feb '09 - 7:25pm

    The vagaries of the post are about 99.9% successful deliveries, I think. Like Mike Smithson, I begin to smell fish.

    Has anyone got a list elections were the vote was unexpected in some significant degree (like the number of postal votes in Glenrothes)? A list of unavailable marked registers? Should such lists exist, it is getting to be time to compare them. I do not suspect purposeful conspiracy; but I wonder if a new “old Spanish practice” has grown up in the way some people are conducting their election business.

  • I don’t think the Glenrothes registers were sent by post. Certainly the Sheriffs court is reported as having agreed that they were received from Fife Council.

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