Returning officer issues code of conduct reminder to Wisbech by election campaigners following ‘comments’ after May poll

PUBLISHED: 20:01 28 August 2017

Returning officer Paul Medd who has issued 'code of conduct' to those involved in Waterlees by election

Returning officer Paul Medd who has issued 'code of conduct' to those involved in Waterlees by election

Archant

Returning officer Paul Medd has reminded all those involved in this week’s by election to Wisbech Town Council of a “code of conduct” for campaigners.

Waterlees by election: Conservative candidates (top row, l-r) Andy Maul, Laura Cobb and Andrew Lynn and Labour candidates (bottom row, l-r) Dean Reeve, Amy Broad and Kathy Dougall. Waterlees by election: Conservative candidates (top row, l-r) Andy Maul, Laura Cobb and Andrew Lynn and Labour candidates (bottom row, l-r) Dean Reeve, Amy Broad and Kathy Dougall.

In a tersely worded letter to political agents, Mr Medd said that following a review of the May 2017 elections both he and the elections team had been “made aware of a number of comments in relation to these polls.

“Whilst we have absolute confidence regarding the processes that we follow to ensure electoral integrity, I thought it timely to take this opportunity to highlight the code of conduct for campaigners”.

His advice has been issued as Waterlees goes to the polls following the sudden resignations of Alan Lay, Virginia Bucknor and Michael Bucknor from the town council.

Mr Medd says the code provides a guide for campaigners, electoral administrators and the police as to “what is, and is not, considered acceptable behaviour at polling stations and in the community during the lead-up to polling day”.

He says those involved must adopt the principle of asking “what would a reasonable observer think?”-

Of four specifics mentioned in his letter the first two cover proxy votes and the second two cover what action to take if an offence is suspected.

The returning officer says campaigners need to remind voters about their use of proxy votes and to realise that they not entitled to vote on polling day if they have already applied done so.

“Electors should be encouraged to explore other options for people to act as a proxy – including relatives or neighbours for example- before a campaigner agrees to be appointed as a proxy,” says Mr Medd.

“To minimise the risk of suspicions that campaigners may be seeking to place undue pressure on electors, electors should not be encouraged to appoint a campaigner as their proxy”.

He also says campaigners should be encouraged to give the police a statement and to substantiate any allegations of electoral fraud.

He warned that unsubstantiated claims about electoral fraud have the potential to damage confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

“You should ensure you are confident that evidence can be provided to the police before considering whether it is appropriate to publicise any specific allegation,” says Mr Medd.

He also points out that tellers (those who check their supporters at the polling stations) must be aware of the constraints of their role and the need to comply with any requests made by presiding officers regarding their conduct with electors.

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