Church Fenton parish council by-election where 20 ineligible people were allowed to cast votes could be recounted in front of York District Judge

A botched election in North Yorkshire where 20 locals were mistakenly allowed to cast their vote in the wrong poll could be recounted in front of a County Court judge amid calls for it to be held again.

Selby District Council returning officer Janet Waggott has offered to apply for a re-count in front of a District Judge in York following the confusion at the village hall in Church Fenton, between Selby and Tadcaster, during local elections 'Super Thursday' last month.

Two residents of neighbouring parish Little Fenton and 18 residents of Biggin who should have been voting for the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner were wrongly allowed to vote for candidates in the Church Fenton Parish Council by-election.

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Selby District Council returning officer Janet Waggott has offered to apply for a re-count in front of a District Judge in York following the confusion at the village hall in Church Fenton, between Selby and Tadcaster, during local elections 'Super Thursday' last month.

Selby council, which administered both elections, has accepted that ballot papers were wrongly issued and that the mistake could have affected the result of the parish council by-election as the margin was just 15 votes.

But a letter to angry residents seen by The Yorkshire Post written by London-based law firm Sharpe Pritchard, on behalf of the council, said the criteria had not been met for the full re-election they were demanding.

Responding to a petition signed by 40 residents and one of the candidates, the letter said an application could be made for a recount at the High Court in London, and that if an order was made next month it could take place in September.

But it added that a local recount in front of a District Judge at York County Court would be more convenient for both the returning officer and local residents who wanted to attend any hearing, as well as being quicker.

Ms Waggott has now proposed that she makes an application to the County Court in York for a recount of the ballot papers and that the numbers list of all the votes is inspected to work out which were cast by people who were not entitled to vote.

In the end Jessica Kate Cooper, Stewart Keith Ferris and Joanna Louise Mason were elected to the parish council with 259, 267 and 241 votes respectively, while Stuart Metcalfe Spensley missed out with 226 votes. The letter said the returning officer accepts an error was made but denied that the election was incorrectly administered.

The petition signed by 40 locals says: “In terms of the most reasonable solution for the Petitioners, it is that a re-election is called in order that those electorate eligible are the only persons entitled to vote on the day of the election, and that fully trained officials are presiding.

"The Petitioners do not believe that a recount is reasonable, as there are clearly other anomalies in the administration of this election. A re-election is the only solution in this situation”.

But the letter disputes this, adding: Based on the information we have seen we consider it highly unlikely that a court would decide that the Parish by-election had been conducted so badly that it was not substantially in accordance with election law

Approached by The Yorkshire Post, Ms Waggott said in a statement: "An election can only be challenged if a petition is issued. An election petition has been received by the returning officer that challenges the Church Fenton Parish By-Election result.

"It alleges two errors having been made in the administrative process and seeks a re-run of the by-election.

"The returning officer is represented in the proceedings by Sharpe Pritchard Solicitors. Since the returning officer is now a party to on-going litigation it would be inappropriate to comment on those live proceedings in the press."