Thursday, May 6, 2010

Voters in North Devon failing to receive polling cards

Having just voted today I found it extraordinary to discover that it wasn't just me who didn't receive a polling card. It seems it was the case for much of my area and after a quick google search I see that the story was even confirmed by the BBC back on Tuesday here. The story says the following:

Voters are still being urged to go to the polls in North Devon on Thursday despite a large batch of polling cards in the area being lost. People living in parts of Barnstaple, as well as many rural villages have not received their polling cards. North Devon Council has admitted that an unspecified number of cards have not been delivered. But it said voters who are on the electoral register will still be able to vote. Don Pratt, the acting returning officer, said: "Our principal aim at the moment is to give reassurance to voters to ensure they're not put off voting by not received a poll card. "When this election's over, I'll conduct an investigation into what happened." Liz Birch, who runs the Black Venus pub in Challacombe, near Barnstaple, described it as "ironic" that she had not received her polling card - even though the pool room of her pub is the local polling station. "I don't think anyone in the village has got their cards - certainly not my neighbours," she told BBC News. "I know I can still vote, but it's bothering me a little because if they're just using the electoral roll, you could say you're anybody."...The council said it sent out more than 65,000 cards two weeks ago via Royal Mail, but the Royal Mail said a number of cards were not issued. "The vast majority of voters will have received polling cards, but we are aware that a small number was not issued to us from the council," a Royal Mail spokesman said. "We have contacted the council to ask them to reissue these cards, so they can be delivered in time for Thursday." Other areas where cards appear to be missing include: West Yelland, Rackenford, Atherington, George and Queen's Nympton and East Worlington.

It's bad enough that the polling cards weren't sent out in the first place. But then simply to confirm that this is the case without taking any further remedial action other than confirming people were eligible to vote is even worse. No mention for example of sending the cards out late or even hand-delivering. Given that this is an extremely marginal seat in the closest election for years I can't imagine that the lawyers aren't already sharpening their swords ready for action if the result is close. Not quite U.S. style hanging chads but potentially a scandal nonetheless. What was also strange was the lack of ID that was required. I went along weighed down with a variety of potential ID that I thought they might demand but they wanted none of it and just waved the electoral list in front of me and asked for my address like some slack night club bouncer with a guest list. As a friend has pointed out on Facebook, kind of strange that there are more checks when collecting a parcel from the Post Office.

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