Saturday, 26 June 2010

Six Cornish general election marked registers 'missing'

Cornwall Council has admitted that six of the marked registers from the General Election are missing.

Marked registers are created in polling stations. When an elector turns up to vote, they are checked against the copy of the electoral register held in the polling station to make sure that they are entitled to vote. A mark is made against their name to show that they have been given a ballot paper.

Whilst the obvious reason for doing this is to make sure that nobody can vote twice, the marked registers are also used after the election for a number of reasons. The political parties use them to check who has voted and they are also used to help prevent fraud. For instance, if a person is known to have died shortly before polling day then the register can be checked to make sure that nobody voted in their name. The marked register can also be cross-referenced to ensure that someone who is legitimately registered at two locations only cast one ballot.

It is worth noting, of course, that whilst the marked register shows who has received a ballot paper, it does not show how a person voted.

There may be a number of reasons for a marked register to be missing. The Council's report (see Agenda item 8 here) on the subject suggests that they might have been put in the wrong container by the polling station staff. After the end of polling, staff have a list of what goes where. Some containers are sealed and can only be opened by court order. Others are documents for the returning officer to deal with after polling day and among these should be the marked register.

There are six missing marked registers in this case, covering one polling station each in the following Cornwall Council divisions:

- St Austell Bay
- Mount Charles
- Fowey
- St Teath
- Wadebridge East
- St Germans

The report on the missing registers was produced after I heard reports that some were missing and it will now be discussed at Friday's meeting of the Council's Electoral Review Panel. It would be inappropriate for me to speculate further on the reasons for them being missing, to apportion blame or to suggest what should happen until after that meeting.

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