Fears over ‘family voting’ at Lewisham East by-election

Questions have been raised over some of the votes cast at the Lewisham East by-election.

A group of volunteers tasked with monitoring polling stations have raised concerns about “family voting,” where groups congregate around booths and discuss voting options.

Evidence provided by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights shows that this practice most affects women voters as the secrecy of their ballot is restricted.

A spokesman for the Democracy Volunteers, who observed the polling stations, said: “On the 100th anniversary of the first enfranchisement of women it is unfortunate that women voters do not always have the right to vote in secrecy, from their spouse or other family member.”

The four volunteers, who are registered with and accredited by the UK’s Electoral Commission, made 38 observations in 36 different polling stations across the constituency.

They claim to have witnessed family voting in 44 per cent of the stations they visited and concluded that this means that 10 per cent of all voters who attended polling stations were involved in this practice.

The spokesman said that staff generally ran polling stations well, but “they invariably do not intercede when voters stand together in the polling booths or discuss whom they intend to vote for”.

He continued: “We would recommend that officers, and the presiding officers, take time to be aware of this and intercede when they see this.”

Each observation was conducted in pairs to allow for objective observation and they then agreed their opinions of the electoral process before submitting data to the central team.

The survey was conducted online so data was collected, and could be checked, live.

The observations generally took between 30 and 45 minutes per polling station.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The Democracy Volunteers overriding conclusion is that the Lewisham East by-election was an extremely well-run election.

“The observers felt that access to voting was clear, staff ran very efficient polling operations and officials dealt well with the voting process.

“We always want to improve the way elections are run in Lewisham and will look carefully at all the feedback from the election observers and voters.”

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