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March North Ward - March Town Council - Statement by Paul Medd Returning Officer

Owing to an error on the part of the Council's contracted election printers, amongst the 198,000 ballot papers printed for the various 7th May elections, one book of 100 ballot papers for the March North Ward of March Town Council incorrectly displayed the names of the candidates for the District Council election as opposed to the relevant Town Council candidates.

It is important to stress that the information available indicates that the printer's error is restricted to the Westwood Junior School Polling Station for the March North Ward of the Town Council, and that the Parliamentary, District and other Town and Parish Council elections are unaffected.

This printing error was identified by the Presiding Officer and Poll Clerks and they withdrew the mis-printed ballot papers immediately. At that time 56 ballot papers had been issued to voters.

The Presiding Officer made immediate contact with the elections team to report the matter. Following this the election team contacted all the other Presiding Officers to alert them and ask that they check their respective ballot papers. No other printing errors have been reported.

The 56 mis-printed ballot papers will be included in the verification process as their issue is recorded as part of the polling station's ballot paper account.  However, they will clearly have to be rejected at the counting of the votes tomorrow as the list of candidates is not that for the Town Council election.

The Electoral Commission and Timothy Straker QC specialising in electoral law have been consulted and confirmed there is no legal recourse to immediately remedy the situation. Furthermore, the QC has fully endorsed the approach taken in dealing with this matter. The count for the March North Ward of March Town Council will therefore proceed on the basis of the valid votes cast, and the result will be declared accordingly. A petition can be presented either by 4 or more persons who voted or who had a right to vote at the election in question or by a person who was a candidate: section 128 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. Further, the petition has to be presented within 21 days after the day on which the election was held: section 129. This time cannot be extended.