City Council Candidates condemn electoral mix-up

Labour candidates in Cambridge have claimed that they lost out in local elections due to missing logos on ballot papers.

At the last minute, the Electoral Commission announced that any candidate standing for two parties could not use a logo on the ballot paper. This meant that all Labour and Co-operative Party candidates could not use the Labour logo.

There were a number of Labour candidates in Cambridge affected by this. George Owers, a student at Jesus was a Labour and Co-operative Party candidate for Abbey ward.

He told The Cambridge Student (TCS): "It was clear on polling day that some voters were confused by this and assumed that because these Labour candidates did not have the logo, they were not ‘proper' Labour candidates. Several voters said to me that they were not sure who the Labour candidate was."

Candidates were alerted "minutes before handing in their nominations" about the logo issue.

Owers said, "We were told very late, too late to change our candidacy so that we could have the logo. This cost us many votes, and possibly a couple of seats.

"I think the logo issue lost me at least 150 votes, if not more. We are very angry at the Electoral Commission, who made this decision too late, with no consultation, so that we could not adapt to it."

The rules changed in 2007 and it had not been a problem in subsequent elections. Only this year the Electoral Commission decided to implement the legislation, leaving candidates no time to sort out the problem. The Electoral Commission told TCS:

"On the 16th April the Commission identified an issue with the legislation that applies to the UK Parliamentary general election and English local elections, which meant that candidates standing with a joint description from more than one registered party are not able to include an emblem on the ballot paper.

"We immediately contacted parties affected to let them know and issued guidance to returning officers."

The exit polls showed Labour and Lib Dem neck-and-neck. However, Kevin Blencowe, a sitting councillor, lost badly despite many years service; whilst in the same ward, his fellow Labour candidate, with a logo by her name, won.

Blencowe told TCS: "It cost a reasonable number of votes and caused confusion in my ward. There were eight candidates in total and two from the Labour party: me alongside Gail Marchant-Daisley.

"It was evident from the ballot papers that some people left a blank, as it seemed like she was the only Labour candidate.

"I have stood for election in previous years, this time being my fourth and I have never had this problem.

"This has not just affected Cambridge but is a national issue too." Indeed, similar problems were reported elsewhere too.

The Co-operative Party has a historical link to Labour and is a sister party focusing more on social enterprise.

Saranyah Sukumaran -News Reporter

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