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Concerns raised Solace presidential ballot is open to abuse

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The vote for the next president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers could be open to abuse, LGC can reveal.

However, Solace’s director Graeme McDonald has defended the way the ballot has been conducted.

This year is the first occasion in which Solace’s presidency will be determined by an online ballot of its membership after both Doncaster MBC chief executive Jo Miller and her Luton BC counterpart Trevor Holden announced they were standing for the society’s top post.

A link to a Survey Monkey poll has been sent to Solace’s 1,000 members which allows recipients to choose to vote for either candidate.

No names, membership numbers, or passwords are requested in order for people to place a vote.

While members are not able to vote twice from the same computer there is nothing to prevent people from voting again using another device, such as a mobile phone, using the same link. Nor does it prevent people from forwarding it to others, allowing them to place a vote using the same link.

LGC tested this theory after being contacted by one member who expressed concern the ballot could be open to abuse. LGC used different devices to place one vote for each candidate so as to cancel out both votes. The member said it was odd that the society which includes the nation’s returning officers amongst its members was running a poll in this way.

When contacted by LGC Mr Holden said he has raised the same concerns ”prior to the commencement of the poll and during the poll”. “I was told that Solace were content this was an appropriate way to conduct these elections,” he said. Ms Miller declined to comment on the matter. 

Graeme McDonald

Graeme McDonald

Graeme McDonald

Mr McDonald told LGC integrity was at the heart of Solace’s code of ethics and added: “We are assuming our members will be acting with integrity.

“What we didn’t want to do was create a situation where we would be effectively saying we can’t trust them to be acting in that way.”

Mr McDonald said Solace had also not wanted to “create barriers” to people participating in the ballot by asking them to submit membership numbers and passwords in order to vote.

“For me to suggest I can’t send an email only to the members that can vote and then suggest some members in the society would lack that integrity would be a pretty damning thing, given the individuals concerned and the type of elections we’re running,” he said. “There’s a level of trust there that has been established.”

Voting closes on 5 October and the winner will be announced at Solace’s summit in Gateshead on 12 October.

You can read the two candidates’ answers to a series of questions submitted via Twitter or emails, or by LGC, by clicking here.

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