Published: 00:01, 16 July 2017
Electoral officers in Canterbury admit they have no way of knowing whether city students voted twice in this year’s general election – and do not intend to find out.
Labour’s Rosie Duffield pipped sitting Conservative Julian Brazier by 187 votes on June 8 in a shock result largely credited to student turnout.
But there has been concern around the country that students were able to submit postal votes in their hometowns and also make last-minute registrations at their universities – even though voting twice in the same election is against the law.
Canterbury City Council – which oversees elections in the district – admits it does not know whether this happened in the Canterbury and Whitstable constituency and has no plans to investigate.
Lib Dem activist Alex Lister put a Freedom of Information Act request into the council over any probe into double votes.
The 34-year-old, of Cherry Drive, Canterbury, said: “It came to my attention that there were students bragging on social media that they had managed to vote twice.
“So I put the information request in not because I am seeking to overturn the result, but because in a seat such as Canterbury and Whitstable which we now know is a marginal, it’s important that people have confidence in the result.
“One question I would like to know the answer to is whether the political canvassers who spoke to students ahead of polling day told them they could vote twice.
"I have also asked the Electoral Commission to provide me details relating to how many people may have voted twice nationally.”
Cllr Andrew Cook, who represents Herne Bay’s Heron ward, believes that about 30,000 of the city’s 40,000 students have ties to hometowns elsewhere and that a number of them may have been persuaded to vote a second time in Canterbury.
“Obviously, it is an offence to vote twice and some students may have been misled as to this,” the Conservative said.
“It matters whether they were made aware they were breaking the law. If they were not, then someone has not done their job.
“But if there are students bragging on social media that they voted twice, then some sort of action needs to be taken.”
Ms Duffield insists she has complete faith in the electoral system in Canterbury and Whitstable.
She said: “If something like this has happened then it needs to be investigated, but there is no evidence that it has.
"Raising this issue is unhelpful and one must wonder whether there’s an element of sour grapes about doing so.”
In its response to Mr Lister, the city council admits it is possible to vote twice, but added: “We are not aware of this occurring within the district and there are no plans to further investigate this.”
Last year journalist Charles Moore proved it was possible to vote twice in the EU referendum.
He voted at a polling station in Sussex and then in a London borough where he has a second home, writing on the ballot paper: “I am spoiling my ballot because I have voted already.
"This second vote is my protest at how lax the voting rules are.”
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