"The person responsible was probably not quite right on top," Mr Ken Ritchie, the chief executive of Britain's Electoral Reform Society, suggested yesterday after an election ballot for membership of its ruling council was abandoned because of vote-rigging.
Problems began for the society, an independent body which conducts the majority of private elections in Britain, earlier this month when adjudicators from Electoral Reform Ballot Services discovered more than 40 ballot papers returned in the annual election were in the same handwriting.
Some ballot papers had their serial numbers removed.
An independent investigation into the "irregularity" is under way, and Mr Ritchie insisted the organisation was determined there would be no repeat.
"It looked as if something irregular had happened in our ballot, and since our business is the safety and integrity of elections, we have decided we will conduct the election again.
"If people want to be exceptionally devious then they might find a way of cheating the system, but we want to make that risk as small as possible," Mr Ritchie told The Irish Times.
The attempt to rig the election was uncovered on July 6th when ballot papers returned by the society's 2,500 members were due to be counted. Thirty-eight candidates were standing for election to 15 ruling council places under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system, and Mr Ritchie admitted it was "quite possible" that had the rigging attempt not been uncovered the election of one or two candidates could have been called into question.
"It seems we have in our organisation one or two who are odd, for want of a better word. At least there is evidence to suggest that perhaps one person has managed to persuade others that he or she is better at filling out the ballot papers than they are. But there is no suggestion that any of the papers were copied or fraudulently printed," he added.
The Electoral Reform Society was formed in 1884 as the Proportional Representation Society and campaigns to "strengthen democracy" through the introduction of the STV. It counts the former Liberal Democrats leader, Sir Paddy Ashdown, among its supporters. It conducts private ballots for trade unions, including the National Union of Journalists.