PRE-ELECTION literature sent out by Bromsgrove Conservatives has prompted questions about whether parties should be able to have postal vote application forms sent to their offices.
But the Tories responded by saying the practice was completely legal and above board and could have been done by the other parties.
Bromsgrove dad Paul Bennison, who received one of the letters, said on Twitter: “Is sending a ‘vote by post’ application form, which is designed to look like an electoral services form, but is actually returned to a political party and subsequently used for campaigning purposes, legal?
“By returning the form to them they state in small print: ‘your data will be used by the Conservative Party as part of our democratic engagement with electors and will be shared with Conservative HQ, our candidates and elected representatives.”
Bromsgrove Liberal Democrats wrote that following the tweet they had raised ‘further questions’.
Adam Kent, who is standing as a Conservative in Wythall, said he was ‘astounded’ by the lack of electoral law knowledge and practice by those who had questioned the move, adding other parties had the same schemes available through their party associations and did the same on their websites.
“It just goes to show how inept these people would be if they were in charge of running a council.
“Encouraging people to vote by post during the current pandemic has to be the most sensible thing for any party.”
The Electoral Commission has also moved to reassure residents that the process is legally sound.
A commission spokeswoman told the Standard: “The law does not prohibit postal votes or applications from being handled by candidates, parties or campaigners.
“We have developed a Code of Conduct for campaigners, which applies to all political parties, candidates and their supporters.
“We encourage campaigners to make sure that the local Electoral Registration Officer’s address is clearly provided as the preferred address for the return of absent vote application forms.”
Despite the reassurance, the way in which the form has been articulated still faces criticism.
Paul added: “So the principle is legal but what about the detail and the misleading nature of the form?
“It seems very deceptive and designed to mislead the elderly or those who don’t read T&Cs.
“On the one side it does not make it clear it’s a Conservative campaign leaflet and the opt ins do not make it clear you’re opting into campaign messages – it’s designed to look like an official (voting) form.
“So much of this relies on people reading the small print.”
Local elections will take place on May 6.
For more information visit http://www.bromsgrove.gov.uk/council/elections.aspx