Labour candidate faces police inquiry

Posted: April 30, 2010 in Law & Disorder

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Labour candidate Kerry McCarthy, Bristol East, who relayed the results of around 300 postal votes to her 5,700 followers on the social networking site Twitter now faces a police enquiry.

Electoral laws state that it is illegal to reveal the results of votes cast before the end of polling day as this could influence the outcome of the election. Anyone found to have breached the law faces a possible £5,000 fine or six-month jail sentence.

The candidate, who is a qualified solicitor and has previously worked in Labour’s legal department, deleted the post although copies of the original tweet were still being widely circulated on the internet.

Candidates are allowed to be present at the opening of postal votes, but they have to stick to strict confidentiality rules and are presented with a set of guidelines reminding them of the requirements and penalties. The postal ballots are opened face down but it is sometimes possible to see the front of the paper.

This is what Miss McCarthy had to say on her blog;

“On hearing the results of a random and unscientific sample of postal votes, I posted them on Twitter. It was a thoughtless thing to do, and I very quickly realised that it was not appropriate to put such information in the public domain. Because this was not official information, and no votes had been counted, I thought of it as being akin to canvass returns, i.e. telling people how well we were doing with Labour promises on the doorstep, but I appreciate now it was wrong to do so. I have personally called the Returning Officer at Bristol City Council to apologise, and assured him I have removed the information as quickly as possible, within a matter of minutes. He has advised that it would not be lawful for anyone else to publish the information, for example, by re-posting my original Tweet.”

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