A community forum for Llwynhendy, Pemberton and Bynea Independents has included a marked ballot paper where the poster encourages people to vote for a candidate.
The ballot paper is clearly marked with two x’s besides the names of two of the independent candidates and the post says: “Postal votes for the Pemberton/Llwynhendy bi election (sic) are arriving today. Please put your cross in the box for Sean Dixon and Samantha Nurse. Here’s a picture of a postal vote supporting our candidates. Please give them your support and put the X in the box for them. Don’t forget you select both Sean and Kate. Good luck both.”
The forum on Facebook, named Llwynhendy, Pemberton and Bynea Independants (sic) has also carried personal attacks on one of the candidates.
In one post it accuses the candidate of missing meetings stating: “Llwynhendy Labour’s candidate has a track record of not attending meetings. Below is the record of her attendance when she was elected prior to 2017. How can you get work done if you don’t attend meetings. A vote for Labour is a wasted vote! VOTE INDEPENDENT SEAN DIXON KATE NURSE.”
The result of the by-election for the ward was extremely close: Chris Beer won with 513 votes, Kate Nurse 491 votes and Theressa Bowen had 482 votes.
Some are now questioning whether the marked ballot paper encouraging people to vote has illegally influenced the outcome.
The council have been contacted to highlight the way in which the post breaks election rules. It is understood that two of the administrators of the site are councillors. Posts would have to be approved by administrators before they appear.
The candidate the attacks relate to, Theressa Bowen, told us that she thought the attacks were unfair especially as she was suffering ill health and had been grieving for members of the family that she had lost.
It is understood that the Electoral Services have also been contacted over the posts and that a complaint has also been lodged with Dyfed-Powys Police.
An investigation into the complaint determined that there is nothing in law to prevent a postal voter from taking a photo of their own postal ballot paper and posting it online. The legislative secrecy provisions that are designed to protect the secrecy of the ballot are limited to information obtained in a polling station and do not extend in the same way to the postal voting process.