A campaigning pensioner who challenged the reasons why her postal vote in the Scottish parliament election was rejected, has received a formal apology from the returning officer after holding officials to account.
The 75-year-old woman from Perthshire had applied for a postal vote for May’s election because of concerns about voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic.
A record number of people voted by post on May 6, with nearly a quarter of the electorate registering to vote by post.
However the woman, who prefers not to have her name published, was later told that her postal vote had not been counted.
‘I know my date of birth, I have had it for 75 years’
The woman said she “couldn’t believe it” and that those responsible for the snafu “should get their backsides kicked.”
She said: “When I got the letter to say my vote was not counted I couldn’t believe it.
“The letter came on May 31 and it said it was rejected because the date of birth on the postal vote did not match the one supplied in my original application to vote by post.
“But I know my date of birth, I have had it for 75 years.
“I made an appointment to find out what happened and found the dates were exactly the same and there was no reason my vote should have been rejected.
“I have put in a letter of complaint because my vote is important to me, and how many other people has this happened to?
I put in a letter of complaint because my vote is important to me.
“When I filled in the registration form I actually picked to get postal votes for all elections, but now I wonder.
If you’ve applied to vote by post, you’ll be receiving your postal vote pack soon ✉️🗳️
— Electoral Commission (@ElectoralCommUK) April 22, 2021
“They should get their backsides kicked because they rejected it when there was nothing wrong with it.
“It matters because I went to the bother of doing it all and it gets rejected, so I am not happy about it.”
Vote rejected due to ‘human error’, says returning officer
Barbara Renton, who is the returning officer for Perth and Kinross, has now apologised to the woman, and said it was “genuinely a human error”, adding the election counting team “failed to meet our normal high standards”.
In a written apology, she added: “In no way I am seeking to make excuses for this incident but I hope you can appreciate the pressure that the entire election team were working under for these elections.
“In Perth and Kinross we saw a 50% increase in the number of postal voters, with an 89% return rate, which was a record turnout.
You are the only voter I am aware of who submitted a legitimate vote that was not counted – however from my perspective, that is one vote too many.
“Of the 31,968 postal votes we processed for the Scottish Parliament elections in May, you are the only voter I am aware of who submitted a legitimate vote that was not counted – however from my perspective, that is one vote too many.”
A spokesman for Perth and Kinross Council added: “This was a very unfortunate mistake simply as a result of human error.
“We understand the significant upset this has caused.
“We have written to apologise and also explain what steps we are taking to avoid any repeat in the future.”
The right to vote ‘cornerstone of democracy’, says John Swinney
The woman has since raised the issue with John Swinney, who is the MSP for Perthshire North.
He says the right to vote is the “cornerstone of our democracy”, and is therefore working to make sure her concerns are properly assessed.
Mr Swinney said: “I have raised this matter on behalf of my constituent, and I note that they are currently in dialogue with the returning officer regarding this situation.
“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and so I am hopeful that my constituent’s concerns will be addressed satisfactorily.”