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WALES TORN BY RULE ON DOUBLE NEGATIVE

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The Western Mail (p1) leads with what it calls the 'Yes-No fiasco' that is fuelling doubts over the Welsh referendu...
The Western Mail (p1) leads with what it calls the 'Yes-No fiasco' that is fuelling doubts over the Welsh referendum held in September last year. The Mail claims that three different methods of counting were used across Wales, causing widespread confusion among returning officers over what should be regarded as spoiled papers.

Officially, there were 4,000 spoiled papers resulting from the 22 counts, but the original rule on spoiled papers was changed after the polls closed, leaving many more that could be counted as invalid. The ensuing controversy surrounds ballot papers which had either Yes or No written in one of the two boxes. The voter was asked to mark with a X to the box that designated their preference. But before the referendum it was agreed that a Yes in the box marked 'I Do Agree That There Should Be A Welsh Assembly' would be a valid Yes vote. However, a No in this box would be a spoiled paper. Similarly, either Yes or No written in the box marked 'I Do Not Agree That There Should Be A Welsh Assembly' would be a spoiled paper. On the night, it was decided taht a No written in the 'I Disagree' box should be a valid No vote.

The opposition's constitutional affairs spokesman in Wales is demanding a recount; he is quoted: 'We don't know how many spoiled papers there were. Some that were spoiled went through and some that weren't did not. Given the narrowness of the vote, it could have made a material difference.' But secretary of the Welsh branch of the Association of Electoral Administrators Stuart Jones said that the change in the rule was more a reinterpretation and that it took place around 11.30pm. He is also quoted: 'There was further analysis and it was agreed to accept a No in the 'I Disagree' box as a No vote. The decision in fact went in favour of the No campaign.' He described the confusion as unfortunate but said there had been no material effect on any vote.

The Western Mail prints a survey of how each council interpreted the guidelines. Most followed the Welsh Office's revised guidelines, others followed 'electoral guidelines' but were 'Unable to specify' which, and a few followed the chief election officer's guidelines.
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