Sheffield Green Party has submitted an official complaint to John Mothersole, Returning Officer, in relation to a letter being distributed by Labour to postal voters in Central ward on the eve of the arrival of the forms.
Eamonn Ward, Green Party election agent for all Sheffield wards, said the letter from Mohammad Akbar, Labour’s candidate for Central ward, did not adhere to the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct for political parties’ behaviour in relation to postal votes.
The complaint states : “The letter from candidate Mohammed Akbar includes the following : ‘If you vote by post and are having difficulty getting your vote back to the Town Hall or are worried you haven’t received it then call me on (Mr Akbar’s mobile number) or ring the Elections Office direct on 2734093.’ “
Mr Ward added in the complaint “It is quite clear that all enquiries on the return of postal votes should be made direct to the Elections Office. Any involvement of the kind outlined in the letter could lead to further breaches of the code of conduct which all the parties in Sheffield are signed up to. ”
Mr Ward commented : “Voters should put the envelope containing their vote in the nearest post box. If they have health or mobility issues, they could ask a family member or friend to do so , or seek help from the Elections Office as outlined in the information received from them. ”
Mr Ward continued ” The relevant officials and the public need to know about this Labour party election activity in Central ward. I had to make a previous report about Labour activity in the ward. In 2008 I witnessed a man come out of an address in the ward holding postal votes and get into the back of a taxi. I reported this to the police after the Lib Dems checked the registration and found that the driver of the taxi was the Labour candidate for Dore & Totley. The response from Labour then was that it is not an offence to handle a postal vote but it does contravene the Electoral Commission Code of Conduct which all Sheffield parties and their candidates sign up to before each election. The postal vote system is simple – you are mailed a ballot paper, you complete it in private and you mail it back yourself.”
Promoted by Eamonn Ward on behalf of Sheffield Green Party, 73 Eskdale Road, Sheffield, S6 1SL
1 : The wording of the complaint submitted to John Mothersole is :
Sheffield Green Party would like to submit an official complaint about the letter currently being delivered by the Labour Party in Central ward. I reported to John in the Elections Office this morning that the letter from candidate Mohammed Akbar includes the following :
2. The relevant sections from The Electoral Commission Code of Conduct are :
18 It is absolutely clear that anyone acting on behalf of a party should not solicit the collection of any ballot paper. Wherever practical, the voter should be encouraged to post or deliver the completed ballot paper themselves.
19 It is recognised that people working for a party may be approached by a voter who is unable to post their ballot paper or make arrangements for it to be returned in time. If you are asked to take the completed ballot paper, you should ensure that the voter has sealed it first and then post it or take it to a polling station or office of the Returning Officer immediately, without interfering in any way with the package.
20 If you are with a voter when they complete their ballot paper, remember they should complete it in secret. Equally, you should ensure that the voter seals the envelopes personally and immediately. If you are asked to give advice, it is acceptable and often helpful to explain the voting process but do not offer to help anyone to complete their ballot paper.
21 If you are in any doubt about the probity or propriety of your actions, you should ask yourself the question, ‘What would a reasonable observer think?’ This code has been prepared based on this test, as advocated by the Third Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.