Friday, August 28, 2009

A Potential Electoral Fraud Minefield ?

From the Oxford Mail

A SENIOR Oxford City Council official left 200 polling cards in a bag on a wall — and did not tell his bosses when he discovered they were missing.

The error by electoral services manager Martin John was revealed in a council report following June’s county council and European elections, when hundreds of polling cards disappeared.

Last night, the Electoral Commission told the council it must “learn its lesson” and “improve the service for voters” in the city.

The report by Jeremy Thomas, head of legal and democratic services at Oxford City Council, said Mr John, who has been in the role for 12 years, was delivering poll cards in Summertown and Wolvercote when he left the bag on a wall. He was covering for a colleague and had printed 200 extra cards because he thought some were missing for part of Woodstock Road.

But it was only when he was in the area that he realised the cards were not missing at all.
The report, obtained by the Oxford Mail, said: “Unfortunately, Mr John placed the duplicates in a bag on a wall about halfway down Bainton Road to separate them from the original print run which he was delivering and, by an oversight, left them there.

“On finishing the delivery, roughly 45 minutes later, he realised his mistake and went back to the spot where he had left them, but they had gone.”

Abingdon builder Mark Newman, 37, found the cards in a skip in Harpes Road, Sunnymead, three weeks before the county council and European elections on June 4, and handed them to police.

It is bad enough that an error of this nature occurred, it is worse that a supposedly senior official made it and decided not to report it.

However, isn't the real failure here the fact that he just decided to print more cards? Is there no checks in place for this? Can anybody from the council just decide to print electoral cards as they see fit?

He is also the person who delivered the cards, so is it really the case that in England there is no checks nor balances anywhere in the process? If the full responsibility of printing and delivering cards falls to just one person, how can we know when a person is corruptly abusing this system?

Based on this incident it sounds like it would be easy enough to do. I hope the Electoral Commission look at this very closely.

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