LibDems Try Wriggling Off the Hook Over North Shropshire Postal Vote Reporting

Yesterday Guido pointed out the LibDems and the Observer could be in hot water after “internal polling based on postal votes” was leaked from the party to the paper – a clear breach of electoral law. Subsequently a press officer got in touch to change the record:

“This was data from a canvass of postal voters asking “how they intended to vote,” included in a confidential memo. Not a single postal ballot has yet been opened in North Shropshire, so it is impossible to reveal how any individual has voted.”

This change has also been made in the online Observer story:

“This article was amended on 6 December 2021. An earlier version referred to the Lib Dem vote and “internal polling based on postal votes”. The Libs Dems have asked us to clarify that the vote figure is based on canvassing data on postal voters.”

Unfortunately for the LibDems Guido is told by people who understand this things that this isn’t quite the get-out clause they think it is. No postal votes having been opened isn’t relevant. The law states:

“No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed—

  • any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted”

They were nevertheless reporting “based on information given by voters after they have voted”. Given the clarification still has them wriggling on the hook, arguably the party may have just caused themselves more problems…

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