THE police are investigating reports that a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were allowed to vote in the May 1 district council elections in Huntingdonshire. The alleged irregularities are said to have taken place in Eynesbury, though there is no claim that
THE police are investigating reports that a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were allowed to vote in the May 1 district council elections in Huntingdonshire.
The alleged irregularities are said to have taken place in Eynesbury, though there is no claim that they affected the outcome of the poll. Cabinet member, Councillor Andrew Hansard, retained his seat with a handsome majority over Liberal Democrat former councillor Diana Collins.
The complaint alleges that the two children had received voting cards, showed passports to confirm their identity, insisted on casting their ballots and were allowed to do so.
Following a complaint from the Liberal Democrats, the district's returning officer, the council's chief executive David Monks - one of the country's most highly-regarded electoral experts - called in the constabulary.
"I have passed some material to the police, which they are investigating," Mr Monks told The Hunts Post. "I shall continue to talk to them during the course of their investigation."
The issue of polling cards to people who are not entitled to them is quite common. Their being allowed to vote on the day is not.
"I have known it happen once before, but not in Huntingdonshire," Mr Monks added.
The national media makes much of polling cards being issued to toddlers or household pets, but that is not the electoral authorities' fault. Officers take at face value statutory returns made by householders each year, requiring them to state the identities of adults in the household and of anyone who may become 18 - and therefore eligible - to vote at any election in the foreseeable future.
So householders can include 16 and 17-year-olds, for whom they must declare dates of birth. If, deliberately or carelessly, others are included without a date of birth, the electoral register is prepared on the assumption that the declaration is true. It would be unreasonable to expect every application to be checked at registration stage for Huntingdonshire's 124,000 electors.
But rogue poll cards are usually picked up at the polls themselves, where presiding officers in polling stations should challenge anyone they suspect is not entitled to cast a ballot.
One presiding officer at the Eynesbury poll told The Hunts Post: "It certainly didn't happen in my polling station. People under 18 are not allowed to vote, even if they have been sent a polling card, and the presiding officer should not let them vote. That would not have happened at my station."
Trevor Amiss, HDC's experienced electoral registration officer, said: "We have a handful of reports at every election of people putting their children on the form without their dates of birth. We have no reason not to believe them at that stage. It's usually a mistake because they have not read the form carefully.
"If they are on the register and say they are of voting age, officers have to issue the voting paper and make a report to the returning officer.
"It's one thing getting your name in inadvertently. It's quite another actually to vote, and the returning officer will look at that.
"But I have never known one before when they actually voted."
A police spokesman said: "An allegation of electoral fraud in May 1's local elections in St Neots has been referred to the police by Huntingdonshire District Council and is being investigated.