When I was in Wales one of the things I was asked to do was act as the returning officer for an internal selection to pick our candidates for the regional list in Mid and West Wales.
Having never been a returning officer before I tried to make sure, as much as possible, that all the rules were abided by and all the candidates were given equal opportunity to engage with the membership.
We arranged hustings meetings across the region, which geographically constituted two thirds of Wales. Having run meetings successfully the members all had a postal vote that would be sent to our office in Cardiff for me to count, when the vote closed.
Some candidates took the selection much more seriously than others and towards the end of the process I started receiving a number of calls from people who had either lost their ballot papers, mislaid them or had realised they were just too late to send them back.
Because all the ballots were traceable it was possible to tell if this was true. As a consequence members who could identify themselves, and give sufficient evidence that they were who they said they were, I reproduced a ‘tendered’ ballot paper for. If I could prove that in the unopened ballots that they were not duplicates I would accept the new ballot paper.
On the eve of the election I received a call from a lady in West Wales who explained that she had lost her ballot and that she understood I could help her out. Because it was the eve of me opening them I explained the process and asked her which of the candidates she would like to support.
‘The Plaid Cyrmu candidate,’ came the answer. After a moment’s pause I replied, ‘I’m afraid they aren’t standing in this election,’ and following a few moments of disappointed grumbling from the other end of the phone I read out the names of the candidates and when I arrived at the most active candidate’s name she said, ‘yes that’s the one, the Plaid Cymru candidate!’
Thankfully he won by more than one Plaid Cymru vote!