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Electoral Commission statement on postal voting instructions
Over the bank holiday weekend, the Electoral Commission was alerted to the fact that the Counting Officer for Bristol City had issued pictorial postal voting instructions with their first wave of postal vote packs that could be interpreted as favouring one particular outcome in the referendum.
The Electoral Commission immediately contacted the Counting Officer for Bristol City to ask them to amend the instructions before any further postal voting packs were issued to voters in the area.
Counting Officers have discretion to include, in addition to the instructions prescribed by law, any additional instructions in their postal ballot packs to help voters complete their postal vote. In many cases, and as provided by Bristol, these will take a pictorial form.
On Tuesday 31 May, we contacted all Counting Officers to remind them that any instructions included in postal ballot packs must not be capable of being interpreted as leading voters to cast their vote for a particular outcome. We asked Counting Officers to contact us as soon as possible if they had used the same image, or a similar one, as part of their additional instructions.
The Counting Officer for Swale has confirmed that their postal votes included the same pictorial instructions as the ones used by the Bristol Counting Officer and they amended the instructions before any further use.
The issue has affected approximately 61,000 postal voters across Bristol and Swale.
Both voting areas use the same printing company, who have confirmed to us that no other voting areas that they provide printing services for are affected by the issue. No further cases have been identified elsewhere in the UK
Notes to editors
- The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
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