Democracy Volunteers deployed 10 observers to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on 5th May 2022. These observers formed teams of two and attended 96 of the 109 polling places. There are 74 polling venues in Tower Hamlets, some with two ballot boxes. These observers spent between 30 minutes and 60 minutes at each polling venue observing the process and then completed one or more surveys for each polling station, dependant on the number of ballot boxes.
Our team of observers saw several challenges to the electoral process, most of which were well-handled by the polling staff in the polling stations. We would congratulate Robert Curtis, Head of Elections at Tower Hamlets, the Returning Officer, Will Tuckley, and the elections staff at the council, for their endeavours in delivering the election and improving polling day activities to reduce the challenges faced in the borough to electoral integrity, and for the access they were able to grant at the staff training stage of the election.
However, the team observed continuing significant challenges to the electoral process at points during the day, in some parts of the borough, which do require further comment and action. As well as general concerns about large, and sometimes intimidating crowds outside polling stations, our teams also identified extremely high levels of attempted family voting which was frequently, but not always, prevented by the polling staff. Those subjected to family voting (i.e. not having a secret ballot) were invariably women (85%) from the Asian community and those causing family voting were generally men (61%). We observed family voting in 32% of polling stations – this would have been more if it were not for the actions of the elections staff, and to some extent the police.
We were also concerned about the use of polling cards being displayed on an elector’s mobile phone and some voters being apparently unaware of their name and address which might have indicated some degree of personation in the voting process. We also observed some voters pointing out their names on the electoral register.
Democracy Volunteers is a non-partisan, domestic election observation organisation, committed to improving the security and accessibility of elections in the UK and abroad. Our mission is to improve the quality of democratic elections, by advising those who legislate for, administer, and oversee elections, to enhance them for the benefit of voters.
We aim to do this by attending elections and empirically reporting our findings in an accessible way through statistical analysis and the undertaking of interlocutor meetings to support this objective. We do this through a strong methodology, based on the international standards for election observation as set out by OSCE/ODIHR and others. We are a member of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) and abide by GNDEM’s Declaration of Global Principles for Non-partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organisations and the accompanying Code of Conduct .
We maintain strict impartiality and require our observers to abide by UK and international standards, as well as the relevant local legal framework, when acting as our observers. All of our observers, who observe in the UK, are officially accredited with the UK’s Electoral Commission and undergo a thorough interview and training process to ensure they are able to accurately and impartially record and report data from polling stations and counting venues. None of our observers are members of political parties and are not politically active.
We aim to report on our observations in a constructive and encouraging way to benefit the delivery of democracy and to benefit the electorate as a whole. Since we were formed in 2016, we have observed dozens of elections across the UK and internationally, including General Elections, referenda, by-elections, council elections and devolved parliamentary/assembly elections. Our reports have been used as the basis for trials of various methodologies and equipment at various elections and our data is regularly cited in The Houses of Parliament and used in debates nationally, as well as informing local council training for election officials, whilst informing the public on the conduct of electoral events.
Democracy Volunteers observers deployed for the observations during the Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election with the support of a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. This was arranged by Democracy Volunteers, and this funding covered travel expenses, some accommodation, and subsistence for our volunteer observers.