PARTY bloc votes is where the Highworth Town Council poll came unstuck.

Last week, Swindon Borough Council cited an accounting error when the bloc votes were counted in the early hours of Friday morning.

Put simply, a bloc vote is where an elector gives all their votes to a single party. So, in the case of the Highworth Town Council, someone would have marked an X against all 10 Conservative candidates.

Insiders say there were 265 Tory bloc votes. But rather than give each candidate 265 votes, each bloc vote appears to have been multiplied by 10 – meaning that each Tory hopeful got an extra 2,650 votes.

Certainly, something in Swindon Borough Council’s sums didn’t add up. According to the council’s own website, the 10 Tory town councillor hopefuls scored 32,334 votes between them – compared to the 9,615 won by the other nine Labour and Independent candidates.

People were each given the chance to select up to 15 candidates. Assuming everyone who got a ballot paper voted 15 times, that would mean around 37,000 votes were cast. But not the 42,000 votes that can be calculated by tallying-up the total vote share on the borough’s website.

So, what happens now?

An election petition could be brought on the grounds that the candidates were not duly elected. That petition would need to be brought within three weeks of the May 2 election date.

That petition would need to be made to the Election Petitions Office at Royal Courts of Justice – essentially the High Court – where the case would initially be considered by a judge.

The process can be expensive, with heavy legal costs if the case is unsuccessful. However, we understand the borough council is unlikely to fight an election petition case.

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A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission confirmed that the issues surrounding the Highworth poll had been raised with them.

She added: “If someone is unhappy with the result of the Highworth Town Council election, they can challenge this by issuing an election petition. This is a legal action and will be adjudicated by a judge in court.

“A petition at a local government election must normally be presented within 21 calendar days after the day on which the election was held. Further time may be allowed in certain circumstances.”

The Election Petitions Office said no formal petition had yet been submitted.