Short EV Account: Ballot Paper Controversy

This week’s election violence Short Account explores an incident of very personal almost-violence at one of the pivotal parts of the election process – the counting of ballot papers.  One candidate decided an attempt to force a recount was called for…

At the 1885 election for Ashton under Lyne, an extraordinary scene took place when the counting of votes had closed.  Ten votes were unaccounted for, and after many attempts to discover an explanation for this, counting continued.  The count had finally been completed by 10.45pm – it was concluded that the candidate Haugh Mason had prevailed with a majority of just three, but only if the particular table containing the discrepancies was excluded.  Including the table, however, it appeared that the other candidate, John Addison, had won by over forty votes. 

Naturally, Mason suggested a recount. Addison, however, declined to agree to this, reasoning that his political allies had already left for home.  Then, ‘the disputants became excited, and an interchange of blows seemed imminent’.    Mason lunged wildly at the ballot papers on the table, causing Mason to seize him roughly by the shoulders to prevent this.  Mason’s son then joined into the fracas, holding tightly onto Addison in turn.

At this point, the Town Clerk extended himself across the table in order to stop Mason from touching the ballot papers; soon after, a solid ring of police constables was formed around the table to prevent any further interference.

Mason, having been unsuccessful at seizing the ballot papers and forcibly restrained by his victorious opponent, then left the building.  His bad luck had not, however, run its course; he was then set upon by a band of roughs, with the police finding great difficulty in getting him to his carriage without injury.  Though it was expected that the election result would be the subject of later judicial scrutiny, Addison had prevailed. Indeed, at the next election just a year later in 1886, he again came out on top – the vote was tied with exactly 3,049 votes each, and Addison was elected on the Returning Officer’s casting vote.


(Source: Bradford Daily Telegraph,  27 November 1885. Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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