This is clearly illegal, as the Representation of the People Act 1983 forbids the publication or communication of any polling data before the close of the polls on election day. Publication of early returns may, of course, influence the result, which may be done routinely by countries like Zimbabwe, but is frowned upon here.
The Returning Officer has now handed the matter over to the Police, but I have a deep suspicion that this will be kicked into the long grass until well after the election. Anything we can do to express our concern is worth doing, so I wrote last night to the Returning Officer.
from Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx
date 30 April 2010 23:58
subject Re Kerry McCarthy and leaking polling data before election
Dear Mr McNamara
I understand from reading the news that one of the PPCs for the Parliamentary seat of Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy, has obtained information about opened postal votes and relayed the information to the general public via Twitter.
As someone who believes in the integrity of our voting system, I am appalled at this news. I understood that it was illegal to make the contents of any votes public prior to the end of polling, as this may be seen as an attempt to influence the result.
I hope that you agree with me that our democracy depends on the integrity of the voting system, and that Ms McCarthy's actions (if reports are true, and she seems to have admitted that they are) are contrary to both fair play and the law of the land. I trust that you will do everything in your power to make sure this does not happen again, and that Ms McCarthy faces the full consequences of her actions - including disbarment of her candidacy if the offence be proved.
I wrote as a member of no political party, but one who is afraid that our once unimpeachable electoral system has been steadily tainted by fraud and questionable practices over the last ten years.
Today, I had the following reply:
from Electoral Services Electoral Services
to Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx
cc Fair Comment
date 1 May 2010 13:23
subject Re: Re Kerry McCarthy and leaking polling data before election
Please see message from Mr McNamara:
Dear Mr Xxxxxxxx,
I have as the acting Returning Officer made a complaint to the police.
This is now a police matter and therefore I forwarded your email to them
I'm barricading the door and feeding our already hyperactive dog on Pro-Plus and raw steak, as I expect a visit from the Internal Dissent Unit any night now.