Labour’s former council leader in Thanet, Iris Johnston, has been caught on camera allegedly ‘helping’ a member of the public to cast their ballot during last Thursday’s election.
The votes for Thanet District Council took place on the same day as the General Election, when UKIP leader Nigel Farage was attempting to be elected as the Member of Parliament for South Thanet.
Ms. Johnston is pictured with a member of the public, looking over their shoulder as they cast their ballot. Ms. Johnston, a divisive local figure, claims that she had done nothing wrong, and that the staff in the polling station had “nodded her through”.
But guidance from the Electoral Commission is strict when it comes to candidates and polling agents. It is clearly stated that:
“All candidates and election agents have the right to enter and to remain in a polling station but they must not disrupt voting or attempt to canvass voters…
“During polling hours, polling agents in attendance should be placed at a separate table that is close enough to observe and hear the proceedings, but not in a position that would compromise the secrecy of the ballot.”
Mr. Johnston’s proximity to the voter may well qualify as compromising the secrecy of the ballot, something that worried the Conservative Party’s Paul Messenger, who took the photo. He told the BBC, “It concerned me that Iris was actually going into the voting area, right up to the booth, with this lady”.
Ms. Johnston replied, “I did nothing wrong. The presiding officer and the staff nodded me through, and the only comment made was that I shouldn’t mark the papers, and of course I wouldn’t. I have really strict rules for myself and others about this.”
The voter has told the BBC that Ms. Johnston didn’t interfere or affect her vote, however the matter of the secrecy of the ballot is still unanswered.
Labour lost control of Thanet District Council just a day after UKIP leader Nigel Farage was defeated in the parliamentary election in the same area. The council is now controlled by UKIP.
Kent Police recently revealed that they are investigating a report about electoral fraud in South Thanet.