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Sheffield Green Party make official complaint over Labour breach of Electoral Code of Conduct

Sheffield Green Party has submitted an official complaint to John Mothersole, Returning Officer, in relation to a letter being distributed by Labour to postal voters in Central ward on the eve of the arrival of the forms.


Eamonn Ward, Green Party election agent for all Sheffield wards, said the letter from Mohammad Akbar, Labour’s candidate for Central ward, did not adhere to the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct for political parties’ behaviour in relation to postal votes.

The complaint states : “The letter from candidate Mohammed Akbar includes the following : ‘If you vote by post and are having difficulty getting your vote back to the Town Hall or are worried you haven’t received it then call me on (Mr Akbar’s mobile number) or ring the Elections Office direct on 2734093.’ “

Mr Ward added in the complaint “It is quite clear that all enquiries on the return of postal votes should be made direct to the Elections Office. Any involvement of the kind outlined in the letter could lead to further breaches of the code of conduct which all the parties in Sheffield are signed up to. ”

 

Mr Ward commented : “Voters should put the envelope containing their vote in the nearest post box. If they have health or mobility issues, they could ask a family member or friend to do so , or seek help from the Elections Office as outlined in the information received from them. ”

Mr Ward continued ” The relevant officials and the public need to know about this Labour party election activity in Central ward. I had to make a previous report about Labour activity in the ward. In 2008 I witnessed a man come out of an address in the ward holding postal votes and get into the back of a taxi. I reported this to the police after the Lib Dems checked the registration and found that the driver of the taxi was the Labour candidate for Dore & Totley. The response from Labour then was that it is not an offence to handle a postal vote but it does contravene the Electoral Commission Code of Conduct which all Sheffield parties and their candidates sign up to before each election. The postal vote system is simple – you are mailed a ballot paper, you complete it in private and you mail it back yourself.”


Promoted by Eamonn Ward on behalf of Sheffield Green Party, 73 Eskdale Road, Sheffield, S6 1SL

Notes :

1 : The wording of the complaint submitted to John Mothersole is :

Sheffield Green Party would like to submit an official complaint about the letter currently being delivered by the Labour Party in Central ward. I reported to John in the Elections Office this morning that the letter from candidate Mohammed Akbar includes the following :

“PS: If you vote by post and are having difficulty getting your vote back to the Town Hall or are worried you haven’t received it then call me on 07738 39066 (Mr Akbar’s mobile number which is incorrect but correctly stated elsewhere in the letter as 07738 390666) or ring the Elections Office direct on 2734093.”

This does not adhere to the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct for political parties’ behaviour in relation to postal votes. It is quite clear that all enquiries on the return of postal votes should be made direct to the Elections Office. Any involvement of the kind outlined in the letter could lead to further breaches of the code of conduct which all the parties in Sheffield are signed up to.

I believe this letter is being delivered to the approximately 3000 postal voters in Central ward. I ask you to take appropriate urgent action to ensure that this letter does not lead to any interference in the completion and posting of postal votes.

2. The relevant sections from The Electoral Commission Code of Conduct are :

Postal voting ballot papers

17 You should not touch or handle anyone else’s ballot paper. If you are asked for assistance in actually completing a ballot paper, you should always refer the voter to the Returning Officer’s staff at the elections office who can arrange a home visit if necessary. Assistance will also be available for electors at polling stations.

18 It is absolutely clear that anyone acting on behalf of a party should not solicit the collection of any ballot paper. Wherever practical, the voter should be encouraged to post or deliver the completed ballot paper themselves.

19 It is recognised that people working for a party may be approached by a voter who is unable to post their ballot paper or make arrangements for it to be returned in time. If you are asked to take the completed ballot paper, you should ensure that the voter has sealed it first and then post it or take it to a polling station or office of the Returning Officer immediately, without interfering in any way with the package.

20 If you are with a voter when they complete their ballot paper, remember they should complete it in secret. Equally, you should ensure that the voter seals the envelopes personally and immediately. If you are asked to give advice, it is acceptable and often helpful to explain the voting process but do not offer to help anyone to complete their ballot paper.

21 If you are in any doubt about the probity or propriety of your actions, you should ask yourself the question, ‘What would a reasonable observer think?’ This code has been prepared based on this test, as advocated by the Third Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

 

Topics: Central, City Wide, Council, Eamonn Ward, Elections

There are 7 Responses to Sheffield Green Party make official complaint over Labour breach of Electoral Code of Conduct

19th April 2011

While it was clearly important to bring this complaint, I am bitterly disappointed by Eamonn Ward’s dismissive attitudes towards the problems that people can have getting to a post box. Not everyone that has ‘mobility issues’ has friends or family locally who can take it for them. Nor would everyone trust someone else with their voting papers.

The Green Party have impressed me lately, nationally, by their attitude and actions around disability and disabled people. Eamonn Ward’s thoroughly dismissive attitude, and the assumptions he makes, have made me doubt whether it is as good locally as it professes to be nationally.

    Profile photo of eamonn ward
    20th April 2011

    Thanks for the comment. We take disability issues very seriously and, with hindsight, I would add “or seek help from the Election Office as outlined in the information received from them” to that comment to make all suitable options clear. Hopefully, most people have someone they trust to post their ballot papers but some will clearly need assistance which should always come from the Election Office with home visits if necesary – as outlined in the code of conduct.

    However, I hope you agree that the clear intention of making this complaint is to ensure that there is no outside interference in the postal voting process. This is particularly important for vulnerable people such as those with mobility problems or some learning difficulties. If they need assistance completing or posting their ballot paper it should come only from the election office with no political party involvement.

    I hope you agree that this action has been taken to help protect vulnerable people and that this comes through in our complaint and press release even if I could have been clearer in my wording in that respect

    Profile photo of eamonn ward
    20th April 2011

    Just to advise you that we have updated the wording above to ensure that the words match the message we intended ie if you need help contact the Election Office for guidance.

    “Voters should put the envelope containing their vote in the nearest post box. If they have health or mobility issues, they could ask a family member or friend to do so , or seek help from the Elections Office as outlined in the information received from them. “

      21st April 2011

      Thank you, I appreciate the update. I read the original post as very dismissive of the reality of many housebound people who don’t have people around to help them out with these things. I do appreciate that you’ve taken this on board, thanks.

20th April 2011

Thisis no more than spin that could have come from any of the bigger parties.

The letter code of conduct clearly states that postal vote envelopes can be handled so long as the ballot inside the envelope has been completed without interference.

25th April 2011

At least they’re not driving around door to door with a ballot box like they (allegedly) did in 2004.

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