Radio Sandwell Local News

Observers raise concerns about election in Ladywood

2015-05-11 16:33:40

ballot boxesElection ballot boxes being delivered to a Birmingham polling station on election day

Party activists campaigned inside polling stations in a Birmingham constituency despite strict rules banning it, an international team of observers has warned.

Observers monitoring the election in the Birmingham Ladywood constituency also warned that couples and whole families went into polling booths together, even though voters are supposed to vote alone.

Rules about voting alone are designed to ensure that nobody, including husbands or wives, can see how anybody else votes.

The findings were published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which sent a team of 22 MPs and election officials from countries including Canada, India, Jamaica, New Zealand and Pakistan to monitor voting in six constituencies across the country, including Ladywood.

They said that overall they were "impressed with the orderly and calm atmosphere in which the election took place".

But they warned: "Causes for concern included the absence of regulation on campaigning on Election Day and the presence of active and vocal party supporters in and around the polling stations.

"This raises questions of undue influence and needs urgent attention from the Electoral Commission, both to put in place clear rules and ensure their enforcement.”

They added: “There were two constituencies, Birmingham Ladywood and Glasgow East where party tellers and agents were noted as being particularly vocal directly outside the entrance of the polling station or just inside. Across all constituencies Observers felt that vague guidance was open to interpretation.”

Parties are allowed to have representatives inside polling stations to monitor the election, but there is supposed to be a strict bar on attempts inside the building to influence how anybody votes

The observers also warned: "Issues over voter understanding and secrecy of the ballot were also noted in both Birmingham Ladywood and Glasgow East."

They said: "In particular constituencies more than one person – for instance a married couple or family – would enter a booth, in contravention of the Electoral Commission regulations that voting should be carried out alone."

And they said: "Most notably in Birmingham Ladywood there were incidents with more than one voter in a voting booth at any given time and an observation that polling staff were often unable or unwilling to enforce the rules over privacy for casting votes."

They also warned that a number of polling stations in Ladywood were “particularly over crowded, not able to cope with the numbers arriving”.

Meanwhile, Labour Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff said he was “angry” about long queues at polling stations in his constituency on election night, including at Highfield Hall Community Centre and Chilcote Primary School.

It was partly due to a lack of staff at the polling stations, he said.

Mr Godsiff said he would be raising concerns with Robert Connelly, Head of Electoral Services at Birmingham City Council.

“I look forward to having a robust conversation with him,” Mr Godsiff said.

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