Aug 16 2012 By Doug Archibald
THREE procedural errors led to a ballot bungle at the local council elections.
Almost 900 postal voting packs were sent out with a vital ingredient missing ... the ballot paper itself.
Councillors were told this week an inquest into the boob, back in April, absolved returning officer Alex Haswell and laid the blame entirely with the “specialist election company” handling postal votes.
The 898 individuals involved had registered for a postal vote for the first time.
The registration cut-off point was 5pm on April 18.
The new list of names went to the printer on April 19 and the returning officer was alerted to the problem five days later.
A contingency plan was immediately put into action and replacement packs were sent out, nine of them hand-delivered to voters who were heading out of the region.
In a report to the policy and resources committee, Mr Haswell said the contractors carried out an investigation and “took full responsibility”.
A first tranche of 21,182 already registered postal votes had gone out without a problem after normal procedures including a random check had been carried out.
That did not happen with the smaller tranche and the problem was exacerbated when “a member of the contractor’s staff” took personal responsibility for putting the packs together and signed them off, something that should have been carried out by a supervisor.
No quality control random checks were carried out.
Mr Haswell said: “As is evident, had the defined processes and procedures been completed for the second tranche of packs as they had for the first, this error would not have occurred.”
Just over 75 per cent, 674, of the papers were returned. And Mr Haswell pointed out there was a bright side to it all.
“As the incident was widely reported through the council’s website and local media, it, in turn, raised awareness of the election and the importance of ensuring that postal votes were returned timeously,” he said.