The Electoral Administration Bill provides for a returning officer to take such steps as he thinks appropriate to remedy any procedural error on the part of himself or his staff relating to the conduct of an election, although he may not re-count the votes once the result is declared.
Maladministration or corrupt practice by a returning officer that is considered to have materially affected the result of an election may be challenged by means of an election petition.
In addition, there are various offences of corrupt practice at an election, so allegations of corrupt practice by a returning officer may be referred to the police for investigation and any further action.
Formal complaints against the actions of a returning officer that are considered to have materially affected the result of an election are made by election petition. Although not all election petitions allege any error or wrongdoing on the part of a returning officer, they are all required to name the returning officer as respondent to the petition.
In the last five years, the number of election petitions that have included specific complaints about the returning officer are as follows:
Number 2002 5 2003 6 2004 4 2005 1 2006 4
Returning officers are responsible for running elections and for ensuring they are conducted in accordance with the relevant rules. It is for individual returning officers to reach their own conclusions on any possible incidents of electoral malpractice or fraud, and to decide whether they should report such matters to the police.
It is open to any person to report possible incidents of fraud to the police at any time. It will be for the police to decide what action to take in relation to any such reported incidents, and the nature and timing of any investigation that may take place into them.
None. The Electoral Commission issues general advice to returning officers on a range of issues relating to the conduct of elections. Returning officers are ultimately responsible for the running of elections and for deciding what action to take in any particular case to ensure they are conducted in accordance with the rules.