Indyref Postal Vote Sampling: 9 things we know & 1 we don’t.

  1. The counting of any postal votes seen by postal vote agents when the envelopes are opened is an offence in UK elections under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and was an offence in the Scottish Referendum under the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013;
  2. On May 3rd 2007 The Independent reported that the Labour Party had been sampling postal votes in East Dumbartonshire, Glasgow and Clackmannanshire in the Scottish parliament election. It appears that no action was taken by the police or the Electoral Commission following this disclosure;
  3. During the 2010 General Election campaign, Kerry McCarthy, the Labour candidate in Bristol East, tweeted the results of a sampling of postal votes. Ms McCarthy and her agent were cautioned by the police for publishing the information. No action was taken against anybody for collecting the information;
  4. On the night of the referendum Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, stated that Better Together had been counting postal votes at all openings of postal votes across Scotland. There have been other, less explicit references to postal vote sampling in the Referendum from Humza Yousaf, John McTernan and Susan Dalgety;
  5. When the Chief Counting Officer’s spokesman was asked about Ms Davidson’s claim, he responded that widespread sampling of postal votes could not have taken place because it would have been spotted by Counting Officer staff;
  6. That the police investigation following Davidson’s comments has continued for five months suggests that they have found evidence that postal votes were sampled, “tallies taken” and the results collated;
  7. The potential offences committed in the Scottish Referendum include Misconduct in Public Office by Counting Officers and their staff if they knowingly allowed tallies to be taken, conspiracy to commit SIRA Sch 7.7 secrecy offences by anyone who asked postal vote agents to collect tallies, and SIRA Sch 7.7 secrecy offences by anyone who attended a postal vote opening and took a tally or communicated the results of a tally to anyone else. Davidson, McTernan, Yousaf and Dalgety were not committing an offence by knowing that tallies existed or announcing this to the World;
  8. The first session for opening postal votes in Glasgow took place on 9th September and continued on every weekday to the 18th, with similar programmes of opening sessions in each council area. 20.4% of the votes cast across the country were postal votes. Davidson’s admission implies that Better Together will have been able to forecast the vote split of postal votes in some council areas from the 9th of September;
  9. The accepted story is that it was the Yougov poll on 7th September showing a narrow Yes lead that triggered the promising of further powers in the following week, but Davidson’s admission implies that the partners in Better Together may have seen data taken from postal vote samples from 9th September;
  10. The criminal investigation continues, but electors in May have no idea which Scottish politicians knew that postal votes were being illegally sampled.
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