Friday 6 May 2016

The Friday Joke - Barnet council running elections

Pic courtesy of Karen Edge
So we now know what went wrong in Barnet. Staff at polling stations are goven lists of registered voters. If you are not on the list, you don't vote. Simple as that. Barnet council printed off lists of voters for the staff at polling stations. These lists were incomplete. Given that we have elections of some sort or another every year or other year, this is quite incredible.

Let us consider what the process is for producing these lists.  Barnet Council maintain a list of local people registered to vote in an election. This data is held on an IT system in a database. When an election is called, the first process is to issue voter polling cards. By and large, the IT system seems to have done this correctly. Voters did get polling cards. Then there is an extract done for the polling station. This is done on a polling station by polling station basis. It uses the same data/database as the one used to produce the polling cards. These extracts are printed and distributed to staff at polling stations. This is the process that went wrong. There are at least two failures in the process. The first was that the extract failed to produce the right polling details. The second is that the lists weren't checked. So it appears that there was both a technical and an administrative/procedural failure.

So the questions we need answers to are as follows.

1. Last year we had a general election. Barnet Council managed to print the lists off without problem. What has changed in 12 months. Various Barnet Tories are tweeting that it is nothing to do with outsourcing, but the suspicion is that the data has been moved to a different IT system. Was this caused by an IT failure. Who provides the IT system? Was the system tested?

2. Why did no one in Barnet Council bother to check the lists once they'd been printed. Given the catastrophic effects for voters, surely a visual check of all lists should be performed.  Who is responsible for managing this process?

3. The problem became apparent as soon as polling stations opened. People were being turned away almost immediately. It took nearly 4 hours to resolve. The potential for pages to be missing from lists is clearly a predictable problem. Many polling stations such as Mill Hill were in venues such as libraries with printers and other IT available. There is no excuse for it taking three hours to get the updated lists out.

4. The returning officer, Mr Andrew Travers has stated he will not resign to the press. Given the fact that thousands of residence were affected, how can he say such a thing. Where does the buck stop in Barnet?

Just one of many tweets on the subject

. My card. Says don't bring. 30y resident left in tears

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