Churchwardens’ elections

by
24 May 2019

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or to add to the answers given below.

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I understand that the rules for who may vote for churchwardens, in a contested election in a vestry meeting, are broader than those for electing a PCC member at an APCM, as they include those resident in the parish but not on the church electoral roll. Is it, therefore, legal to be asked to sign one’s ballot paper, supposedly to prove one is on the church roll, thus removing any secrecy in how one has voted in a vestry meeting?
 

Your answer: The election of churchwardens occurs at a meeting of both those “persons whose names are entered on the church electoral roll of the parish” and those “persons resident in the parish whose names are entered on a register of local government electors by reason of such residence”.

As PCC secretary, I go armed to the annual meetings with various forms, lists, and papers to cover many potential queries and eventualities. Perhaps recklessly, however, I have never actually had to hand the list of relevant local-government electorsm as I have never known anyone claim entitlement to participate in the election of churchwardens purely on the basis of this later qualification (and in our case the ecclesiastical parish is not conterminous with the civic electoral wards, which would mean that the task of extracting the relevant electors would require scrutiny of individual addresses).

The substance of the question appears, really, to be about the appropriateness of identifying yourself with your vote by signing the ballot paper. The Churchwardens Measure 2001 appears to be silent about the precise modality of voting to be employed, but, in the absent of other guidance, it would seem reasonable to follow the provisions about elections at the APCM (in Section 11 of the Church Representation Rules 2011). This states that votes may be given by a show of hands, or, if one or more object, by voting papers signed on the reverse, or, finally, if one tenth of those present request, by numbered voting papers.

This clearly makes the show of hands the default and therefore makes no presumption that elections at the APCM should be conducted by secret ballot. Signing the reverse of the voting papers allows the inspection of one side to verify that all voters were eligible and then inspection of the other side to count the votes for the various candidates.

In so doing, those counting could avoid becoming aware of which way individuals voted, but secrecy should not be assumed nor falsely guaranteed.

Gwilym Stone
Southampton

 

Your question: Does any reader recall an instance of someone “forbidding the banns” in church — in real life rather than in fiction? If so, how was the objector dealt with, and what was the outcome?

A. P.

 

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