Votes loss branded' understandable

COUNCIL officials have branded two mistakes which caused more than 300 postal votes to be lost "understandable," the Evening Star can today reveal.Ipswich local elections were held on May 1 where 16 councillors were elected to represent 16 wards, but not all the votes were counted.

COUNCIL officials have branded two mistakes which caused more than 300 postal votes to be lost "understandable," the Evening Star can today reveal.

Ipswich local elections were held on May 1 where 16 councillors were elected to represent 16 wards, but not all the votes were counted.

As revealed in the Star on August 28, a box containing 333 postal votes was found almost three months after the election.

The box, containing 6.9 per cent of the 5,151 postal votes cast, had been found in the waste management section of the council.

An investigation into the embarrassing blunder has found that the ballots were mislaid due to "an unfortunate series of two understandable errors".

The box was moved to the wrong place and its contents were not checked but Ipswich Borough Council can not guarantee that these human mistakes would not happen again.

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Only the result of the Sprites ward could have been affected by the late discovery as Labour candidate John Le Grys won by a majority of only seven votes.

The Sprites ward results were opened at a meeting of returning officer, James Hehir, deputy returning officer, Brenda Welham-Clarke and the leaders of the political parties.

This count revealed that the result would not have been different and would have increased the Labour majority to 16.

Borough council leader Peter Gardiner said: "There was nothing to be gained by going to the public. It was an unfortunate incident, but it had no bearing on the actual result."

A election panel of Conservative David Hale, Liberal Democrat Richard Atkins and Labour councillor Keith Herod was set up to find out what went wrong.

They found that the votes were delivered by Royal Mail in plastic boxes, similar to those used for a questionnaire that the council had distributed at the same time.

One of the boxes containing votes had been mistaken for questionnaire answers and was put in the wrong section of the council building.

The report said: "Given the sheer volume of post handled on a daily basis by a small team in a confined area, it is remarkable that incorrect internal deliveries do not happen more often."

The panel recommended campaigns, like the survey, should not take place when they will be also be receiving postal votes. They also included guidelines on what to do if ballots were lost in future elections.

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