ANDREW Miller, Ellesmere Port and Neston’s returning MP, has called for an investigation into how 2,000 postal votes went missing in his constituency.
Votes had been counted by 3pm but in extraordinary circumstances a misread note on the number of postal votes meant the declaration at Ellesmere Port & Neston had to be suspended until 11am after the total of 5,689 was verified.
The clerical mistake put down to ‘human error’ occurred because the number 5 handwritten on a note was misread as 3 and nonplussed candidates pondered the 2,000 missing postal votes.
Returning officer Simon Gocher and council staff reassured the candidates the figure was an error, however the only way to have the vote formally verified was to check details in the council’s offices in Chester.
Meanwhile, the vote counters were sent home at 4am and police locked the votes away and guarded the building overnight. Bleary-eyed election agents journeyed down the A41 to Chester’s Forum offices to confirm the postal vote total was 5,689 and not 3,689.
Back in Ellesmere Port Civic Hall, Cheshire West and Chester Council chief executive Steve Robinson gathered the candidates after verification and as acting returning officer declared the result.
Disappointed by the administration of the result, Mr Miller wasted no time in calling for an investigation.
He said: “We raised our eyebrows with what seemed to be an anomaly with the postal votes and it turned out that our suspicion was correct. I’ve been involved in election counts since the early 1970s and you gather an awful lot of experience and a nose for these things.
“In a private meeting of candidates and agents when it was spotted, I think I was the first to realise the nature of the error, and the agents went to the forum and saw for themselves where the error was.
“There’s some important lessons to learn from that so we will be formally taking it up with the local authority in due course because there were inadequacies surrounding some of the processes adopted by Cheshire West and Cheshire council including not having an office to manage the election.”
He added: “The election for Ellesmere Port and Neston has to be managed in this constituency.”