Thousands of voters in a key marginal seat have been left at a disadvantage after the Electoral Commission found that Northampton Borough Council failed to comply with its legal obligation to carry out a full review of polling districts and polling stations.
Labour’s Parliamentary candidate has criticised the Council for failing in its legal duties and called on it to provide enough polling stations for people to vote in the General Election.
The Electoral Commission gave the ruling after Sally Keeble made a formal complaint, backed by more than 30 people, under the Representation of the People Act, about the unequal distribution of polling stations across the constituency. In two wards there were over 3,150 people per polling station, while in nine other areas there were fewer than 1,000 people per polling station. In another ward over 2,400 people faced a difficult walk to a polling station.
She also complained last year on behalf of residents who found themselves locked out of a polling station in the European Elections: the polling station was in a building with a door entryphone system which was left unattended for a period of time.
The Electoral Commission said it asked the Council for its response to her complaints by March 25th - the Council only responded on April 1st.
In a letter to Sally Keeble yesterday the Commission said:
“the Council has not complied with its legal obligation to carry out and complete a review within the period set out in legislation (1 October 2013 to 31 January 2015). Although the review process was started in August 2014, no decision was taken on the review by the relevant decision-making body in the Council. A review includes all the steps listed in Schedule A1 RPA 1983 including the making and publishing of a decision, supported by reasons…… From the information that has been supplied we do not believe that a review has been carried out and completed within the period required by law because no decision was taken by the relevant body."
The Electoral Commission has told the Council to complete a review as soon as possible – taking into account all the representations made about the polling arrangements in the constituency. Because of the Council’s failure to carry out a review, the Electoral Commission said it could not make a decision on the substance of the appeal.
Sally Keeble said: “It's disgraceful that the Council has failed to comply with its legal duties in such a sensitive area. It repeatedly brushed off concerns about the polling stations. Meanwhile it had failed even to carry out the review as required by law. Now people in Northampton North are left at a disadvantage: the Electoral Commission cannot even make a decision on their complaints.
“It also begs the question about who made the decisions about the polling stations. It seems from the Electoral Commission’s findings that the decisions were not made by the relevant council body.
“The Council needs to deal urgently with this issue, complete the review and provide a proper distribution of polling stations in time for people to vote in the General Election.”
Electoral Commission says Northampton Borough Council failed in its legal obligations over polling stations
Thousands of voters in a key marginal seat have been left at a disadvantage after the Electoral Commission found that Northampton Borough Council failed to comply with its legal obligation...