01:10PM, Tuesday 06 March 2018
Concerns have been raised over the handling of hundreds of postal votes from the Chalvey area during last year’s general election.
An exerpt from a WhatsApp group chat, seen by The Express, shows an unknown sender, quoting another person’s message, saying: “Chalvey wards postal [sic] vote I have already collected 250 for labour.”
Cllr Paul Sohal (Wexham Lea) responded: “Plz (sic) don’t say that. Not allowed to handle any postal ballots,” on the general election campaign group for Labour Party activists, councillors and constituency officials.
Slough Conservative Group leader Cllr Wayne Strutton (Haymill and Lynch Hill) reported the matter to Slough Borough Council (SBC) after he was sent a copy of the mssage and says the matter was reported to the police by someone else.
But SBC has said without additional evidence the message alone does not indicate that any laws were broken and it will not be investigating the matter.
The collection and handling of postal votes alone is not a criminal offence, but historic cases of electron fraud have prompted Slough election candidates and campaigners to sign a voluntary Postal Vote Code of Conduct.
Signatories agree not to handle other people’s ballot papers or observe voters filling them out.
Cllr Strutton said: “At the moment I’m not convinced that the sufficient work is being done.
“Paul Sohal, having been made aware of that [the message], should have reported that [the message] last year to the returning officer and the police.”
He added: “It is a real concern of mine and others that there is a real problem in this town with the way residents are encouraged to request postal votes so that they can be harvested and this needs to be taken seriously.”
Cllr Sohal said: “My response was only a word of advice as well as a caution to this unknown person.
“I did not Campaign in Chalvey ward during May 2017, nor did I see any individual collecting or handling postal votes in Chalvey ward.
“[The] Labour Party does not encourage its members to collect or handle postal ballots and we have always been advised by our Labour Party election agent to campaign as per the guidelines issued by the returning officer and law of the land.
“As an experienced campaigner and a councillor I thought it was right for me to post few words of advice for this person.
“So there was no reason for me to report it to police or the returning officer as I did not see any illegal activity being committed by anyone.
“I still don’t know the identity of this unknown person.”
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