Hackney’s May election results should be declared null and void says disgruntled candidate launching High Court trial

Vernon Williams' election campaign leaflet.

Vernon Williams' election campaign leaflet. - Credit: Archant

May’s election results should be declared null and void according to a disgruntled candidate who has accused the returning officer of breaking the law.

One obscured page of the petition outside the Town Hall.

One obscured page of the petition outside the Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

Vernon Williams, who ran as an independent candidate for Kings Park ward in the local government elections, claims the returning officer did not follow protocol when supervising the count, and is taking the case to the High Court.

The Representation of the People Act 1983 states that the returning officer should take reasonable steps to count the votes given on the ballot papers “as soon as practicable within the period of four hours, starting with the close of the poll”.

But vote counting for the local council and Hackney mayoral elections on Thursday, May 21, did not start until 3pm the next day, and counting for the European election votes took place on Sunday.

On top of that, Mr Williams claims security at the Britannia leisure centre was not fit for purpose to store ballot boxes, and “raises a rebuttable presumption that interference and tampering of the ballot boxes and ballot papers took place”.

Mr Williams, who stood as a candidate for the Labour party until 1998, and as an independent candidate since 2002, said: “This is Britain where you have a fair and free electoral system, this is not some tin pot state in South America or Syria, where people have an election and walk away and say I’ve got 95 per cent of the vote.

“The point is that when an election is called and candidates take part in it, the primary objective is that ballot paper, that’s what everybody is working for, that’s why members of the public go out and vote, candidates are working hard and knocking on doors, printing material, spending a lot of time and money convincing the electorate to cast their vote.

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“The ballot papers become the most valuable element in the electoral process, and the returning officer ought to respect that process.

“I’m not accusing [the returning officer] of actually tampering with ballot papers, but I’m suggesting that all the elements are there for interference and tampering.”

Mr Williams has also claimed that electors at Kings Park polling stations and those at the Wally Foster community centre were given pencils to mark the ballot paper rather than pens, as he claims is required.

The case has had three successful hearings at the High Court since June and a judge has now set a date for a trial next month.

Mr Shields came under fire in 2010, and waived the fee he was due to receive on top of his six figure salary for organising the polls, which were “an embarrassment”, according to MPs Meg Hillier and Diane Abbott.

Voting then was dogged by chaos at polling stations, with some voters unable to cast their ballots.

The council was ordered by the High Court to advertise the legal action, but just one of the petition’s eight pages was posted on a notice board outside the Town Hall, half obscured.

A Hackney Council spokesman said it was not appropriate for the council to comment on an ongoing legal process, but that the council had incurred no costs in defending the case as it was covered by insurance.

She added that a notice was published in Hackney Today as well as the notice at the town hall.

Labour’s Sharon Patrick, Tom Rahilly and Rebecca Rennison were all declared winners in Kings Park ward, with over 2,000 votes each, while Mr Williams gained 134.