Pendle Council Election Controversy: Councillors Call for Investigation into Suspicious Postal Votes

Councillors raise concerns over 1,000 postal votes in Pendle Council election, citing unusually high returns in Bradley ward. They call for an Electoral Commission investigation and extra powers to reject suspicious votes.

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Nitish Verma
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Pendle Council Election Controversy: Councillors Call for Investigation into Suspicious Postal Votes

Pendle Council Election Controversy: Councillors Call for Investigation into Suspicious Postal Votes

Councillors Mohammed Iqbal and David Whipp have raised concerns over the handling of 1,000 postal votes in the Bradley ward of Nelson in the latest Pendle Council election. This marks the second year in a row that concerns have been raised about postal votes in the ward.

Why this matters: The integrity of the electoral process is crucial to maintaining trust in democratic institutions, and allegations of fraudulent activity can have far-reaching consequences for public confidence. If left unchecked, electoral irregularities can undermine the legitimacy of elected officials and the decisions they make.

In the election, 1,000 postal votes were returned two or three days before polling day in Bradley ward, which is an unusually high number. Councillor Mohammed Iqbal, an independent and former Labour councillor, won the election with 1,665 votes, while Conservative candidate Hassan Mahmood came second with 1,351 votes.

Councillors Iqbal and Whipp have put forward a motion calling for an investigation by the UK Electoral Commission and extra powers to enable council officers to reject suspicious postal votes. The motion, to be debated at the next full council meeting on May 16, thanks Pendle Council staff for ensuring a smooth process but notes with concern the high number of postal vote returns in Bradley ward.

The motion recommends that the returning officer writes to the Electoral Commission to ask for an independent investigation to ensure no irregularities have occurred. It also calls for the government to introduce legislation giving returning officers the power to reject postal votes where suspicious harvesting or storage of postal votes is taking place in a particular area.

Councillor Iqbal was one of several ex-Labour councillors who stood as independents in protest over Labour's national stance on the Gaza conflict and claims that Labour had tried to"gag"them from speaking their minds. The next full council meeting will also include the formal decision on the new leader and deputy leader of the council, as well as the new mayor and deputy mayor of Pendle.

The controversy over the postal votes in Bradley ward raises important questions about the integrity of the electoral process in Pendle. With over 1,000 suspicious postal votes returned just days before the election for the second year running, an independent investigation by the Electoral Commission seems warranted to ensure no wrongdoing occurred and restore public confidence. The government should also seriously consider granting returning officers extra powers to reject postal votes in areas where suspicious activity is detected. Maintaining free and fair elections is crucial to upholding democracy at both the local and national level.