Thursday, 29 April 2010

Bristol East are opening postal votes in the name of sampling and results are reported

Kerry McMcarthy recent MP and current Labour PPC for Bristol East just tweeted this;

@Kerry4MP First PVs opened in east Bristol, our sample: UKIP **; TUSC** ; BNP ** Lib Dem **; Tory **; Labour **. #gameON!

PV meaning postal votes. Surely this is not right?  I have hidden the actual number because it is illegal to report a sample of postal votes as it is in effect an exit poll and this could influence voting on the day. The tweet itself has now been deleted.

I tweeted back @Kerry4MP really then sampling should not be allowed esp if its public knowllege.

Then @markpack replied @Kerry4MP @mikeytweeting That's still illegal though - whether the figures you publish are from sampling or official totals.

lordbonkers tweeted this @kerry4mp suggest you read this  

Which includes this from Schedule 6, Section 66A of the 2000 amendments to the Representation of the People Act 1983, to whit:
“66A. - (1) No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed-
(a) any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted, or
(b) any forecast as to the result of the election which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.
(2) This section applies to-
(a) any parliamentary election; and
(b) any local government election in England or Wales.
(3) If a person acts in contravention of subsection (1) above, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

Kerry defended this by tweeting Kerry4MP defended this by tweeting '@dazmando @markpack On reflection, I've deleted. It's not counting, just random exercise'

Parlez_me_nTory Tweeted to Kerry 'AHEM! RT @ianvisits: this: RT @Kerry4MP 1st PVs opened in east Bristol, our sample: Lib Dem **; Tory **; Labour ** '

Kerry4MP then turned the tables back on @Parlez_me_nTory  by tweeting @Parlez_me_nTory @ianvisits I think you two perhaps shouldn't compound the error? My mistake - hands up! But you can't do it either'.

Perhaps getting them in trouble too. Oh dear! 

I think this could be the worst tweet Kerry McCarthy has done in her career it is after all against the law. We wait and see where this leads. I'm also a little shocked that an MP didn't know or think about the rules governing disclosure of votes before the closing of the polls on Thursday next week.

UPDATE: Parlez_me_nTory @dazmando on my mobile cannot comment on your post, please ADD that i stand by my tweet in the interest of informing her of ...her error, thank you :)

UPDATE 2: as expected this story is now all over twitter using the #Kerryout hashtaq. Alex Foster of Lib Dem Voice has posted this Note to agents: do not publish anything you learn at postal vote opening where I also used the picture of the UKlabourparty tweet below;

Also Guido Fawkes has been intouch with the Electoral Services in Bristol East to complain about Kerry McMcarthy Tweet and Mark Pack covers the law here
Update 3: There is now a campaign as a result of this tweet to Stop the Bristol East seat being declared for Kerry McCarthy There is also a petition which can be signed here to seebag

Update 4: Kerry McCarthy has tried to apologises in a In a statement released by Labour to the Returning Officer at Bristol City Council. Captainranty has the details here.


  1. Hi, the results seem to be on the UK Labour Party Twitter page too. - is that perhaps worse than just one MP tweeting it?

  2. I have asked the Electoral commission to look into this

  3. Complained to the Electoral Commission

  4. Complaint made to Bristol City Council and email to Bristol Evening Post.

  5. Nice post - my take on it

  6. What about the observers from the other parties who would have been there? What are they saying?

    My opinion? She just made it up. I've been there when postal votes come in and the envelope is opened to check matching signatures but there is no way of knowing which way the actual vote went. Either there has been a major breach of procedure which has been allowed by every other party and the council staff ..... or the liar made the whole thing up.

    You decide.

  7. Another thicko twat Labour candidate. After thirteen dismally incompetent years they are struggling to find any candidates with even minimal common sense never mind intelligence

  8. Bristol City Council have implied that it will become a police matter if it is reported to them that she has broken the law.

    Anyone up for contacting Avon and Somerset Police that there has been a breach of electoral law?


  10. Darren, can you maybe figure out how to use punctuation other than full stops? Commas, semi-colons? It would make it so much easier to read your writing.

  11. Excellent catch.

    I am counting locally next week, and have had a letter inviting me to go a few hours early to count the postal votes, which I presume (perhaps wrongly) are kept unopened until that point. Why would any seat need to do any counting before polling day for any reason?

    Another point, the literature that came quotes Section 66 and does so as I am required by Law to know it and that there can be absolutely no release or speculation before the result is announced. I will quote the last bit:

    "(6) If a person acts in contravention of this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months."

  12. Daffaregoodthisyear29 April 2010 at 19:34

    The general election campaign is effectively finished. People have voted already.
    Postal voting is a travesty of democracy. The postal ballot papers were sent out first class on 26th April. They arrived the next day. The blurb encouraged voters to return it as soon as possible. The electoral returning officer in Reading says he wants them back early so that they have time to vet them before the count on polling day. (ref
    What is the point of a specific polling day when people should vote with their own feet rather than have a postal voting system when people vote with a postman’s feet. Recent events like bigotgate show that “A week is a long time in politics.” (Harold Wilson.) And of course there are certain sections of the non-english speaking voting population might ask the local elder/leader/imam to sort out the relatively complex instructions to sign ‘er, separate that from this, stick that but not this in ‘ere and tear of this and post as soon as possible.
    Postal voting is not only open to fraud but is undemocratic. Polling day is the day to decide – not before.

  13. Mathieu apart from the fact that I'm dyslexic. these ; , . are from the Tweets and they are copied directly with no editing (other than the numbers)

  14. Thank all as ever there is some very interesting detail in your comments

  15. Casual observer29 April 2010 at 20:01

    Will the Lib Dems ban postal voting?

  16. Daniel1979 The early opening of the postal votes is to enable the verification to take place - it's a lot longer as a process now, so presumably that's why Bristol East have already started opening, since I wouldn't usually expect it to happen until the week of polling day. Of course, they lose Monday to the Bank Holiday too.

    What happens is that the declaration of identity has the number of the ballot paper printed on it. The number is then checked against the number printed on the ballot paper to make sure they tally. If they don't match, the declaration of identity and the ballot paper are set aside in the hopes of being able to match them up with the correct papers later. Where more than one person in a household has a postal vote the mix up happens surprisingly often.

    The number is printed on the back of the ballot paper, so the paper should be face down at all times. They aren't separated by party, and the only counting is to ensure that all the postal votes put out for verification are gathered back in again and locked away in a sealed ballot box. They will then be included at the actual count.

  17. Is she really the kind of person we want as an MP?

  18. At the risk of being picky, aren't the different widths of those black boxes on that image leaking the order of magnitude of the numbers in the tweet?

  19. She was a Labour whip no wonder why Labour is such a mess.

  20. ObtuseAngle Maybe but you dont know the numbers however look on the internet and your can find them out now anyway

  21. Sign this petition to get this awful woman dealt with

  22. What I find amazing is that anyone who has spent even a couple of seconds around electoral law would make such an error.

    The document detailing the rules and regulations is pretty thick and pretty much prevents you doing anything (including even touching a voter's postal ballot paper I believe).

    You've got to be very, very careful, and I'm surprised she hasn't been here. Especially in a case (such as this) that could prejudice the final outcome of the election.

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