A voter in the Oban North and Lorn ward has sent us the election leaflet of Independent candidate, Councillor Duncan Macintyre, with an anxious query arising from the instructions at its foot.
The query is: ‘Does this mean that if I only vote for one or maybe two candidates, my vote won’t be accepted? He says I’m EXPECTED to vote for four.’
So long as any voter puts the number ‘1‘ against a single candidate of their choice, that vote counts.
Nothing else is necessary.
You MAY vote – in number order of your personal preference, for as many or as few as you like on the list of candidates on your ballot paper – but you NEED only vote for one to register a valid vote.
This instruction on Duncan Macintyre’s poster is flatly misleading and mischievous in a situation where there are folk who do not – and need not – understand the Single Transferable Voting (STV) system.
All that the STV system does is give a voter the best possible chance that their vote may counts for someone. There are plenty of folk who don’t care about that and only want to be sure that they do what they can for the person or people they really want to see elected.
So – start with a ‘1′ against the name of the person you most want to see elected and if there are others you would also like to see elected, give them a ‘2’, then a ‘3’ etc. But, so long as you have given one candidate a ‘1‘, nothing else matters.
Duncan Macintyre has served long as a councillor and is arguably best known for his manipulativeness.
This leaflet’s front page is obviously peddling wrong interpretations of the voting procedure and in the case of so experienced a local politician, this can be nothing other than strategic.
The leaflet declares first that a single vote can elect FOUR councillors:
‘The single transferrable (sic) vote process entitles you to elect the FOUR Councillors of your choice to represent your interests in order of preference.’
This is simple nonsense. Your vote entitles you to VOTE. Whichever system is being used, that vote may or may not serve to elect anyone.
Then there is the misleading instruction:
‘ … you are expected to vote 1,2,3 and 4 on your ballot paper.’ (Ed: our emphasis)
You are NOT expected to vote for more than one candidate – but you MAY vote in descending order of number preference for as few or as many of the others as you like.
The recurrence of the number four in both of these piece of misinformation is unlikely to be a coincidence.
The situation here is that the discredited Alliance of Independent Councilors is standing three candidates in the Oban North and Lorn ward which is represented by four councillors.
In the present public standing of the Alliance, it would be a brave pollster who would predict all three Alliance candidates getting in. Of the three, Elaine Robertson is, by a long way, the most popular, with Neil Mackay second and Duncan Macintyre last.
We understand that Mr Macintyre was part of an effort to try to persuade Councillor Robertson to stand in a different ward – where she might well not have had sufficient recognisability. Rightly, she stood her ground.
This means that if two of these three may, at most, make it across the threshold, Duncan Macintyre is indeed struggling for as many 4th preference votes as he can get so try to see off Neil Mackay.
With a politician so canny as Duncan Macintyre, the repeated emphasis on four votes in his misleading instructions to voters could not credibly be considered accidental.
While any candidate is entitled to as many of any level of preference votes as they can get, none are entitled to mislead the electorate in this way.
To repeat the position, you NEED only vote for ONE candidate to register a valid vote. You MAY vote in number order of preference for as many or as few of the candidates n the list as you really want to see elected.
And another move
When the Oban North and Lorn voter sent us this leaflet, we noticed that, directly below Duncan Macintyre’s name is the website address for Argyll and Bute Council.
This gives the improper impression of official endorsement of his candidacy.
We are, to date, unaware of any other candidate who is currently an elected member trying this manoeuvre to impress voters.
At election, no candidate has any status greater than another and a great deal of attention is paid by the authorities in ensuring that candidates currently serving as councillors do not take improper advantage of their position.
It would be interesting to see what the Electoral Commission made of this piece of slight of hand.
For information and to support what we have said here on what it takes to make a valid vote, here is the document the Electoral Commission issues to the media as a guide to the entire process of the 2012 local authority elections. SCOTLAND-local-govt-media-handbook-2012 Voting is explained, with admirable lucidity, on Page 19 of the document.