Elections watchdog issues warning after BBC political editor’s comments about postal votes
The elections watchdog has issued a warning that it may be an offence to share information obtained at postal vote opening sessions following comments made by the BBC’s political editor.
Laura Kuenssberg appeared on TV yesterday saying that while parties are not supposed to look at voting papers when they are verified - but not counted - at opening sessions, they do "get a hint" of how they are doing.
A video of her remarks, made during an interview about the General Election on the BBC's Politics Live programme, was widely shared on social media and appeared to provoke a response from the Electoral Commission.
It may be an offence to communicate any information obtained at postal vote opening sessions, including about votes cast, before a poll has closed. Anyone with information to suggest this has happened should report it immediately to the police.
— Electoral Commission (@ElectoralCommUK) December 11, 2019
The BBC said in a statement that it did not believe Ms Kuenssberg had broken electoral law in her comments.
In a statement on Twitter, the watchdog said: "It may be an offence to communicate any information obtained at postal vote opening sessions, including about votes cast, before a poll has closed.
"Anyone with information to suggest this has happened should report it immediately to the police.”
The General Election 2019 campaign trail in pictures
When do we find out the result?
Who is standing in my constituency?
Ms Kuenssberg made the comments after being asked about voter turnout in Thursday's election during a live interview with the BBC Two show on Wednesday.
She said: "The forecast is that it's going to be wet and cold tomorrow, the postal votes, of course, have already arrived.
"The parties - they're not meant to look at it, but they do kind of get a hint.”
She added that “turnout is just another one of these factors that we just can't predict” in a winter election.
A BBC spokeswoman said: "The BBC does not believe it, or its political editor, has breached electoral law.”
Party candidates and agents can observe postal votes being verified, but the ballot papers are placed face down and not counted until polls close on election day.