Council vote blunder leaves locals baffled

Residents in West Wittering were left baffled about whether they could vote in a by-election after a blunder by the parish council.

West Wittering Parish Council had missed the deadline to request polling cards before the by-election was held, leaving the two main candidates Keith Smith and his opponent Graeme Barrett scrambling to get people voting.

Keith Smith, who won the by-election said: "The 20.3 per cent turnout was higher than Chichester District Council (CDC) expected but lower than what I had hoped for.

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"On the doorsteps of residents' homes we did meet a lot of criticism about the fact that poll cards hadn't been issued.

"There's a limit to the number of noticeboards we can advertise the by-election. We handed out two leaflets one for East Wittering and one for West Wittering."

Cllr Smith won the parish council by-election on September 10, gaining a total of 301 votes '“ 124 more than Mr Barrett.

He said he and Mr Barrett, who is the Chichester District councillor for East Wittering, did receive an apology from West Wittering Parish Council clerk Joanne Brown about the poll cards mix-up.

In order to get the poll cards, the parish council had to request them from the electoral services at CDC before August 13.

Peter Buglass of the electoral services at CDC said: "The clerk to the parish council was advised that the deadline date to receive a request to provide poll cards was August 13.

"The clerk indicated that poll cards were not required for this by-election. On August 17, Bob Hutton telephoned this office advising the parish had now decided to provide poll cards for the by-election at their meeting on August 6.

"However, this was long after the deadline date indicated in

earlier correspondence. The deadline date is a statutory one set out in the Local Election (Parish & Community) Rules 2006."

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