“Hypothetically, as long as they ticked one box and then they wrote ‘I’d rather there was someone else on the ballot,’ that wouldn’t invalidate the vote because they’ve given a clear preference for one of the the two candidates,” he said.
“The basic, normal election practices would apply — is the voter’s intent clear? And with all elections, you’re not looking to invalidate votes, you’re looking to validate votes.”
Sir. Hearn said that in leadership elections, “you can get a lot of comments, or more, than you would in a local election or even a general election, because people pay a lot of attention to the candidates and they express views about them.”
However, a senior Conservative source warned members to steer clear marking their ballots with something more than a tick next to their preferred candidate if they wish to remove any possible ambiguity about their vote.
The source said: “If you want to vote for one of the candidates, I would recommend just ticking one of their names – or voting online.”
The source said most members were expected to vote online, but given it is the first contest with digital voting “we don’t know for sure”.
A chairman of a Tory local association said there was “great support for Boris, warts and all,” which would prompt some members to “make it absolutely clear” what they think of the process while still making their vote count.
“I’ve been to counts where it’s been written, ‘I wouldn’t vote for any of these [expletive] if my life depended on it’. And then there will be a tick in a certain field. We’ll sit there and go, ‘I know what that means’.
“I’ve seen polls where people agree that the poll was a male genitalia, but it all fit into place. And therefore it was agreed that it was for that particular person.”
Asked about the current vote, the chairman said: “I doubt it would be more civil.”