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Election Marred by Voting Problems

May 07 2010 07:31
Lawrence Weetman
Students faced problems around the UK yesterday, with some students barred from voting in the general elections, some registered incorrectly and some Imperial students were even offered a second vote.
Thousands of voters around Britain were denied votes, whilst some Imperial students ineligible to vote received polling cards.

The National Union of Students has spoken out against poor organisation at polling stations in many student cities, some of which barred citizens from casting their votes as the ballot boxes came to a close.

Legally, polling stations are not allowed to accept any more votes (other than those already in process) after 10pm. Unprecedented turnout in many constituencies, often reaching levels of 75%, proved too much for some polling stations who seemed prepared for a wave of voter apathy.

Students' unions have worked tirelessly to reverse the trend of low voter turnout amongst students and other young people. What message does this send to first time voters whose votes will not be counted?
Wes Streeting, NUS President

Problems first appeared when polling stations in Liverpool ran out of ballot papers, however national media reports that additional papers were eventually delivered in these areas.

In other areas - including parts of Manchester, Chester, Leeds, Sheffield, Ealing and Hackney - voters queued for hours in order to decide who will win the closest election in decades, only to have the doors closed in their faces at 10pm.

Queues had reportedly been particularly long all afternoon in some areas, causing some returning officers to take the decision to shepherd voters indoors shortly before locking them at the 10 o'clock deadline. Meanwhile a polling station in Lewisham broke rules by remaining open for an extra half-hour.

The Prime Minister is very concerned by the reports and would support a thorough investigation into them.
Spokesman for Gordon Brown

Despite polling cards themselves telling voters that it wasn't necessary to bring the card in order to vote, John Mothersole, returning officer for Sheffield Hallam, blamed the "large amount of students turning up to vote without polling cards".

Furthermore, Sheffield University students have complained that they feel discriminated against after being segregated at the St Johns Ranmoor Church polling station, which created a fast-track line for "residents" and another for "students", many of whom were unable to vote despite waiting for two-and-a-half hours.

Police were called to the polling station when the students, who have now set-up a facebook group, refused to allow the ballot boxes to leave the building.

Speaking in disgust at the segregation, NUS President Wes Streeting said: "We are alarmed by reports from Sheffield Hallam that students were placed in a separate, slower queue. Students' unions have worked tirelessly to reverse the trend of low voter turnout amongst students and other young people. What message does this send to first time voters whose votes will not be counted?"

An early task for a new government is to get to the bottom of what has happened and make sure that it never happens again.
David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg - who was contesting the problematic Sheffield Hallam seat - said, in a speech following his re-election to office, that he felt that it was "just not right that hundreds of voters were unable to exercise their right to vote".

In Chester, where Labour won by just 973 votes, over 600 people were turned away from polling stations which also couldn't handle the heavy demand from voters.

The Electoral Commission described the matter as concerning and has now launched a full inquiry.

Multiple Votes and Dodgy Polling Cards

Yesterday, Live! also received numerous reports from Imperial students that they had been handed ballot papers at their local polling station having already voted by post.

Students may register with the Electoral Commission at their term-time address as well as at home, with Imperial students in halls of residence being registered by the college automatically upon their arrival.

Students who had already voted by post were handed a second ballot paper.

Staff at polling stations were apparently "bemused" when students who had already completed postal votes at their home address declined General Election ballot papers when voting in the local council elections - which students may vote in twice.

ICU President Ashley Brown told Live! that any student who did accept a second ballot paper from staff at a polling station was committing electoral fraud and that it was the "student's responsibility" to reject an additional paper.

However one first year computing student was worried that Imperial students may fall foul of the law if they have been registered by college, and told Live! that he would be making a complaint to the electoral commission.

At least one Imperial College student was sent a polling card with an incorrect name printed on it. This was due to an error by the Electoral Commission, who incorrectly in-putted the name into their system from the list given by Imperial. Live! doesn't know quite how many students were affected in this way.

Another concerning matter is that many Imperial College halls of residence received polling cards for international "erasmus" students, who were registered by college upon arriving in October however left the country before Christmas.

When asked whether he thought that the college should notify the authorities that the erasmus students have left the college, Student Accommodation Centre Manager Trevor Johnson said that "this is generally not a problem as its known that this student group is short term".

As of this morning, the election has not yet shown a clear winner. As predicted the election seems to be presenting Britain with a hung parliament. The election will either be won by a small handful of seats or by the party who can best agree a deal with other parties.

Have you been affected by the voting problems? Were you denied your vote last night? Were you registered incorrectly? Were you offered a second vote? Add your comment below!

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Discussion about “Election Marred by Voting Problems”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
May 07 2010 09:45

Not to mention the people who were, despite being British Citizens, told that the local council had "rejected their forms for being suspicious".

Apparently sending your registration form within the allotted time isn't enough. You have to send it at the same time as your flat mates and not look funny.

May 07 2010 09:54

Video footage of the chaos in Sheffield Hallam has, this morning, appeared on YouTube.

May 07 2010 10:09

How can you run out of ballot papers? I have myself helpep/volunteered/worked at polling stations more than once (albeit in Germany) and I remember that we usually had at about 850 eligible voters and at least 900 ballot papers - just in case ;).

May 08 2010 14:44

Pff. In first year, loads of people in my hall ended up being registered to vote even though they were not eligible due to their nationality. They never responded to the letters asking them to register/confirm their status and ended up with ballot papers without a name. The papers just said "Resident of Room 8E" and the address.

May 09 2010 12:23


A long time ago when I used to compile the electoral roll returns for hall residents I had to argue with local councils about which countries were in or out of the Commonwealth that time round.

Don't forget, eligibility to vote depends both on nationality (broadly UK/Irish, EU, Commonwealth) and type of election (local, national or EU).

May 09 2010 17:37

If people were prevented from voting because of mistakes or lack of staff or voting papers at polling stations,they should refuse to pay tax. The age old slogan "no taxation without representation" applies. That is the only reasonable compensation.

May 03 2012 19:43

I couldn't vote as I didn't get my potal vote by post, I thought its by mistake but my sister and my two of my friends didn't get it too. So dissapointed

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