Voters still cannot count on the count in Tower Hamlets

Last weeks local election count is still the cause of numerous issues, none of which seem to have a clear and understandable explanation. The three opposition councillors, Cllr. Peter Golds, Cllr. Andrew Wood and Cllr. Rabina Khan, have already raised several issues and it seems more are likely to emerge during the coming days.

Whitechapel ward results amended

In Whitechapel ward there is the issue of two different results being published in the space of forty minutes.

In the first published result Shafi Uddun Ahmed (PATH) was elected as councillor in third place with Labour’s Victoria Ngozi Obaze coming in seventh place then approximately forty minutes later the order was reversed with Victoria Ngozi Obaze coming in third place and so being elected and Shafi Uddun Ahmed coming in seventh place.

Whitechapel ward results local elections 2018 – original and amended results published. (Click for larger image)

Cllr. Peter Golds raises issues in Island Gardens

Extracts from letter from Cllr. Peter Golds to Will Tuckley, Returning Officer and Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council.

“After the preliminary sort, and count into block votes, the split voters were entered onto the ‘grass-skirts’* [see explanation below]. In the case of Island Gardens there were eleven candidates and the final candidate was on an additional sheet.

At the end of this process, my two main scrutineers compared notes and gave me their predicted results.

The tallies and sheets were taken away and after a break you [Returning Officer] appeared with figures which indicated that I was in fourth place. I immediately queried this as it was in complete variance to the figures that I had been given. I was, as you know, supported by the Labour Party Agent who was concerned.

Eventually the ‘grass-skirts’ were checked and a number of people kept running tallies and figures that were handed to me and added to the 690 block votes that I had received were in variance to what had been shown.

Once again the sheets were taken away and after a break I was shown the result that was declared. This result was within three votes the same as that given to me by my two key scrutineers.

There has to be a serious question as to what happened between the sheets being completed and tallied elsewhere, **far away from any scrutineer? **

In 2014 my vote changed by 21%. In 2018 I moved from fourth to second place.

I have the right to know how this could have happened.

I was not a scrutineer in other wards but I understand there are concerns in at least two other wards of the borough.”

You can download the full text of the letter here [PDF]

Candidates unaware of Electoral Commission staff at count

Concerns have also been raised with regard to the visibility of Electoral Commission staff at the count.

Quoted in the Evening Standard an Electoral Commission spokeswoman said that “”Representatives from the Electoral Commission were present throughout the Tower Hamlets count; no issues were raised with them.”

It seems the reason no issues where raised with the Electoral Commission staff was because none of the election candidates were told that there were Electoral Commission staff present.

Cllr. Andrew Wood

“Nobody told us that the Electoral Commission were there and that we could complain to them,” said Cllr. Andrew Wood.

“I saw two official looking people with unusual security passes wandering around by they went nowhere near the count tables. I still do not know who they were. So the Electoral Commission spokesman is misleading the public as to what they did.”

Cllr. Rabina Khan (PATH, Shadwell) confirmed that she was also not aware that Electoral Commission staff were present at the count and none of her candidates election agents were informed.

It is understood that Cllr. Khan is making formal complaints to both the Metropolitan Police Special Enquiry Team (SET) and the Electoral Commission relating to the mysterious creation of a non-existent political party by someone with access to the count IT system.

LW has also been made aware of numerous other issues relating to canvassing which we will be publishing during the week.

*’Grass-skirt’ method of counting ballots

6.12 The ‘grass-skirt’ method involves attaching the ballot papers to a large sheet of paper (for example, with double-sided sticky tape) so that they overlap, leaving only the ‘X’s visible for each candidate. These rows of votes can then be totalled up and transferred to a master sheet. (Source: Electoral Commission UK Local government elections in England and Wales: guidance for Returning Officers. Part E – Verifying and counting the votes [PDF].

Related Internet Links

LW Comment

It would be a fundamental mistake for anyone to dismiss complaints about the validity of the election by opposition councillors as just ‘sour grapes’.

The history of elections in Tower Hamlets allows no room for complacency.  We should remind ourselves that the most recent elections were conducted under the watchful eye of over 600 police officers. This undoubtedly deterred much of the usual intimidation outside polling stations but the police are duty bound to keep a distance from the election process itself.

This author, as much as anyone, would like to see an end to allegations of election mismanagement in the borough.

We currently have eight different story leads to follow up directly relating to the election count, voting and canvassing.

LW will pursue any new allegations against the current administration or any other political party with the same vigour that we pursued those made against the previous Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

It’s what we do.

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