Electoral commission report opens door for barred voter claims

21 May 2010 by

voter compenationThe Electoral Commission, an independent body which sets standards for the running of elections, has released its report on problems experienced by voters during the 2010 General Election. It calls for “urgent action” to ensure that “the restrictive rules which prevented participation should be changed”. This has probably opened the door to legal claims.

The Interim Report found that at least 1,200 people were still queuing at 27 polling stations in 16 constituencies at 10pm. It concludes that the main contributing factors to this problem were:

  • Evidence of poor planning assumptions in some areas.
  • Use of unsuitable buildings and inadequate staffing arrangements at some polling stations.
  • Contingency arrangements that were not properly triggered or were unable to cope with demand at the close of poll.
  • Restrictive legislation which meant that those present in queues at polling stations at the close of poll were not able to be issued with a ballot paper.

There are a number of possible legal remedies for barred voters. Under electoral law, it may be possible to force a re-run of affected polls. Under the Human Rights Act 1998, which imposes a duty on States to hold free and fair election, claimants may request a change in the law to prevent similar future problems, or compensation to reflect the breach of their rights.

We posted on 13 May on the difficulties which voters were likely to face in pursuing claims for compensation, despite the well publicised claim by Geoffrey Robertson QC that they might be entitled to £750 compensation. The European Court of Human Rights has been reluctant to award compensation to spurned voters in the past, and have been much keener to provide “just satisfaction” (the object of any legal remedy in human rights claims) by way of insisting on changes to State voting laws.

Liberty, the Human Rights organisation, are investigating claims on behalf of barred voters and have received around 220 submissions from individuals. They appear to be now seeking a change in law rather than compensation. Liberty’s legal director told The Guardian that the organisation has “ruled out petitioning for a rerun of the results because the number of people excluded in each area was not high enough to have affected the result of the ballot“.

The legal route Liberty will pursue is a judicial review to ask the High Court to rule on the issue on whether there should be some flexibility for people who are still in queues at 10pm when, on the current law, the polls must close. This appears to be the view of the Electoral Commission too, so it may be fairly straightforward to convince a court. Of course, this legal route assumes that the Government refuses to institute the change themselves; the review would have to be of an initial Government refusal to change the system.

Given the clear conclusions of the Electoral Commission report it may now be more likely that the Government will take the initiative, meaning that claims for a change in the law will become unnecessary. However, the result may be that voters should not expect compensation any time soon.

Read more:

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

Tags


Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption ALBA Al Qaeda animal rights anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 Artificial Intelligence Asbestos assisted suicide asylum Australia autism benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery Catholicism Chagos Islanders Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners climate change clinical negligence Coercion common law confidentiality consent conservation constitution contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs Court of Protection crime Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation deportation deprivation of liberty Detention disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Family Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage Gaza genetics Germany Google Grenfell Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests international law internet Inuit Iran Iraq Ireland Islam Israel Italy IVF Japan Judaism judicial review jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid Leveson Inquiry LGBTQ Rights liability Libel Liberty Libya Lithuania local authorities marriage mental capacity Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery music Muslim nationality national security NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury Piracy Plagiarism planning Poland Police Politics pollution press Prisoners Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia Saudi Arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing statelessness stop and search Strasbourg Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treaty TTIP Turkey UK Ukraine USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wind farms WomenInLaw YearInReview Zimbabwe
%d bloggers like this: