One of the youngest councillors ever to take a seat in Glasgow, Liam Hainey, faces losing his seat in the City Chambers, after an uncounted ballot box was found.
Contained within the ballot box are roughly 380 uncounted ballot papers, potentially enough to swing the result to the second SNP candidate for Langside, Alex Hewetson, who lost out by only 121 votes, on the 7th stage of counting.
Councillor Hainey, currently Honorary Secretary of the Queen Margaret Union and a Scottish Literature student completing his Junior Honours year, was behind Hewetson up until the Liberal Democrat candidate, Glasgow Party leader Paul Coleshill, dropped out. At this point he scooped up enough Lib Dem preferences to bypass Hewetson’s challenge.
According to information from the Scottish National Party, Hewetson has been resident in the Battlefield and Old Cathcart neighbourhoods for some 40 years, and the ballot box recovered is one from a Battlefield polling place. Whether this will give him the edge remains to be seen.
The ballot box itself was registered as containing 0 votes. The most important question here is not perhaps whether a council seat will change hands on Thursday, but how nearly 400 papers were misplaced for nearly a week after the count had ended. This mishap has occurred just days after the Electoral Office and the Council were congratulating themselves on a smooth count and job well done.
The biggest worry for sitting Councillors is that losing candidates may be perfectly within their rights to demand a recount of any other ward, but so far the Council appear to be insisting this is the only ward this could have happened in. Quite how they can be sure remains unseen. qmunicate can confirm that one losing candidate for East Centre has already launched enquiries into requesting a recount “in the interests of democracy”.
It was originally thought that the impact of these votes will not be known until Thursday with Councillor Hainey continuing his duties until a clarification of the result. However, Thursday is the same day as the first scheduled full meeting of the council, and had the possibility of leaving Hainey as one of Langside’s three representatives in attendance at the meeting, only to lose his seat hours later. The rerun of Langside’s count will now take place on Tuesday.
The delay between the error being discovered and a rerun of the count taking place is due to court approval being required before any recounts can take place.
Both the SNP and the Greens have suggested that the uncertainty, both for Councillor Hainey, and the residents of Langside is notuseful and look forward to the matter being cleared up as soon as possible.
Predictions from Glasgow City Council suggest that unless the voting pattern in this box differs wildly from all the others in the ward, Hainey’s seat is safe.