Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Glenrothes Byelection Mystery

A potentially explosive story is covered by Guide here and by Political Betting here that may raise concerns that the result of the Glenrothes byelection may not have been accurate. This is fuelled by the announcement that the Marked registers has been lost.

Labour's Candidate Lindsay Roy won the seat with a majority of 6,737 votes, this was massively above what the polls were showing even on the day of the election where most polls had Labour on a slender lead.

John Beare, the SNP Convener for the Central Fife area asked the Kilcaldy Sheriff Court to see the marked registers in November. This is a list taken from people appearing at the ballot stations and the attendant will 'cross off' voters names as they vote. This does not record which way people voted, but it can be used to identify if electoral fraud has taken place. For example, the examination of these registers have in the past shown where dead peoples names and people no longer living in the UK have somehow managed to turn up and vote.

Despite the request being made in November, it has taken until the end of January for the court to reveal that this record has been lost.

The Guardian has a quote from Tricia Marwick here, the SNP MSP for Fife who says, "The marked registers are an essential element of any election campaign. They allow a check of who voted, but not how they voted, to confirm that the election was conducted properly."

"Without these records there is no evidence of either a fair or unfair election and that undermines the confidence of everyone who took part."

"It is almost beyond belief that a byelection which attracted media coverage throughout the UK, which delivered a surprise result and had a much higher turnout than anticipated now has no records to show who actually voted."

There is also a massive increase in number of postal ballots issued between the 2005 election and the byelection.

The SNP have demanded an independent enquiry as to the location of the register, and how it was lost. They maybe able to launch a legal petition to have the byelection held again through the courts. As Tricia Marwick says "there is no evidence of either a fair or an unfair election". I googled it, as I am curious to know if a successful challenge can be made, and I found this court leaflet which seems to imply a a challenge would be possible. Though the recommended time limit has lapsed this would seem to be entirely because of the delay from the Sheriff's Court in advising about the loss.

The byelection was being tipped as crucial for Gordon Browns leadership and a leadership challenge may have followed a Labour defeat.

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