The London Assembly is to conduct a wide-ranging review into “blunders” which saw voters in Barnet wrongly turned away from polling stations and delayed the results of the Mayoral and Assembly list results.
Last Thursday’s election saw Labour win 12 of the 25 Assembly seats, the Conservatives eight, UKIP and the Greens two each and the Liberal Democrats just one.
However failures by Barnet Council officials meant local polling stations only had partial lists of voters, leading to some Londoners being denied the chance to vote. The error came to light after voters who knew they should be registered were denied the chance to do so. Many took to social media to complain.“Faith in the system will have been undermined by the shambles witnessed at Barnet, and later by the count at City Hall which was delayed by close to seven hours.”
A separate failing within the £3.6m counting system and software used to determine the election’s outcome caused the results of the mayoral and Assembly list elections to be delayed by five hours.
As a result Mayor Sadiq Khan’s victory was only announced in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Today all parties on the Assembly backed a call by Conservative AM Gareth Bacon to investigate both sets of problems.
A motion put forward by Mr Bacon and seconded by Labour Assembly leader Len Duvall reads:
“This Assembly wishes to express its disappointment in the way London Elects and the London Borough of Barnet Returning Officer conducted the Mayoral and London Assembly elections and proposes the setting up of a working group to examine what happened, as has always happened in previous elections, alongside assessing the way in which the elections were carried out across London.
“In the London Borough of Barnet the supplementary register, rather than the full register, was supplied to all 155 polling stations. By the time the error was spotted and remedial action taken, estimates suggest a significant number of voters were disenfranchised.
“The Mayoral and London Assembly elections were overseen by London Elects, and the counting of ballots on Friday 6th May 2016 was delayed by nearly seven hours following a computer system failure. The full London Assembly results were not announced until shortly before midnight whilst the Mayoral ballot was only formally read in the early hours of Saturday 7th May 2016.
“A working group should be formed and should include in its investigations the London Borough of Barnet’s and London Elects’ handling of the Mayoral and London Assembly elections, and examine what changes should be made to prevent such failings from reoccurring. The working group should also assess how the Mayoral and London Assembly elections were conducted across the capital with the aim of encouraging best practice.
“This investigation should be completed at the earliest opportunity, with the Barnet part of the investigation concluding before the European Referendum so the Council and the Electoral Commission, and with London Elects if necessary, have time to make any changes in Barnet to ensure that this does not happen again. The working group should report to the London Assembly’s Oversight Committee.”
Speaking after the motion received the unanimous backing of the Assembly, Mr Bacon said: “I’m delighted that all parties have supported my motion calling for an immediate investigation into the appalling performance by Barnet’s election team.
“An entirely avoidable administrative error led to voters being turned away from 155 polling stations for three hours – a situation that is nothing short of a disgrace.
“Faith in the system will have been undermined by the shambles witnessed at Barnet, and later by the count at City Hall which was delayed by close to seven hours.
“It is vital that that voters’ faith is restored with a swift and thorough investigation.”
Mr Duvall added: “Londoners have to have confidence in their voting system and clearly that confidence was undermined by the problems seen during these elections. Residents in Barnet who were unable to cast their vote will understandably feel let down by the system and their anger is justified.
“Lessons have to be learnt, and quickly. We need a full, transparent investigation into what went wrong and what needs to change. We have a duty to protect the democratic rights of Londoners and we don’t want to see those errors repeated.”