Northumberland County Council candidate loses by a single vote

A WOULD-BE county councillor was denied the chance to draw straws for a place in office after returning officers threw out her complaints of a spoiled ballot paper.

Nearly elected Lib Dem candidate Julie Porksen from Hepscott
Nearly elected Lib Dem candidate Julie Porksen from Hepscott

A WOULD-BE county councillor was denied the chance to draw straws for a place in office after returning officers threw out her complaints of a spoiled ballot paper.

Julie Porksen launched a protest after a ballot paper with words written on and a mark for a rival candidate was judged to be legitimate.

However, polling station officials went on to rule that the vote was not spoiled. It then transpired that Ms Porksen had lost to the rival candidate by a single vote.

Had the ballot paper been classed as spoiled, she and the rival would have drawn straws to decide who would take office.

Ms Porksen last night said it would have better to have a “50-50 chance than zero”, but vowed to let the matter rest.

Polling station officials insisted they were satisfied they had made the correct decision.

Ms Porksen, 43, of Parkside, Hepscott, near Morpeth, stood for the Liberal Democrats at the Northumberland County Council Amble West with Warkworth seat, held by Conservative Jeff Watson.

During Friday morning’s count at Alnwick Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre, a ballot paper was found to have words written on it, to the effect of “no chance,” in addition to some kind of mark in the box for Coun Watson.

Under election law, a ballot can be regarded as spoiled if there are “marks on the ballot other than those necessary to complete it, where the voter’s identity can be ascertained, compromising the secrecy of the ballot.”

Yet the returning officer and deputy returning officer, employees of the county council, ruled it was a legitimate vote.

Ms Porksen and her agent believed the paper should have been classed as spoiled and challenged the ruling, asking the returning officers to reconsider. Ms Porksen had polled 431 votes – one fewer than Coun Watson.

Two recounts were carried out at Ms Porksen’s request, given the closeness of the vote, with the same result given each time, the second time by a different counting team.

Ms Porksen said last night: “If that ballot paper gets rejected, it will be 431-431, we would have to draw straws. I would rather have a 50-50 chance than zero.”

It is understood Lib Dem officials and MP for Berwick Sir Alan Beith were not happy with the decision to let the vote stand.

Ms Porksen nevertheless said she would be letting the matter rest, saying she and her agent had aired their grievances over the decision through the appropriate channels in lodging the challenge at the count.

“In the end we have to respect how the returning officer interprets a law.

“There are law on these things, they make a decision on this basis.”

Last night, a council spokeswoman said: “Both deputy returning officers independently agreed that it was a good vote and therefore it stands. We are quite happy and confident that we have made the right decision.”

 
comments powered by Disqus

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer