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Voting Preferences

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

1. If the Electoral Commission will amend its guidance so that only a vote cast that indicates a positive preference for a candidate is counted as a valid vote. (55121)

The Electoral Commission informs me that its guidance to returning officers for dealing with doubtful ballot papers is based on the statutory rules for elections and case law in this area. The decision to accept or reject a ballot paper lies with the returning officer.

In the recent local elections in the borough of Kettering, one seat was decided by one vote, and the ballot paper in question had no, no and no against the three candidates from one party and no other marks. That was counted as a positive vote for the three candidates from the other party. Will my hon. Friend advise me on which aspect of legislation we need to change to correct that injustice?

My hon. Friend was kind enough to show me a likeness of the offending ballot paper earlier this week, and I have considerable sympathy for the point he makes. However, the situation is covered by rule 47(3) of the Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) Rules 2006, with which most hon. Members will be very familiar. It states that a ballot paper shall not be deemed void if an intention that the vote shall be for one or more candidates clearly appears. He may wish to take up his laudable campaign to change the rules with the relevant Minister.