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Polling ‘scandal’ affects thousands - despite Hackney Council denying problems last week

PUBLISHED: 12:45 06 May 2015 | UPDATED: 09:07 07 May 2015

Hackney Town Hall, of Mare Street.

Hackney Town Hall, of Mare Street.

Archant

Hackney Council has been forced to admit there has been a problem issuing thousands of voters with ballot papers – many of whom may have lost out on their chance to vote tomorrow.

Town Hall last week categorically denied there was a backlog in issuing postal vote papers when the Gazette reported how a student had lost her vote because it failed to arrive before she travelled abroad, despite applying two months earlier.

But after more complaints flooded in, the council admitted on Friday that as many as 3,000 people were affected by a delay in sending out their postal votes after the cut-off date of April 22, and had promised to courier the final 270 out on Friday.

However, on Monday many people were still complaining that they had still not got their ballot papers through.

Residents new to the borough are also affected, like Amanda Fitzalan Howard who finds it “scandalous” she has lost her vote.

She received a letter in March stating that her application was on track, but discovered this week she is not on the electoral register.

She said: “On calling electoral services I have been told that they have had thousands of complaints and they blamed the new system. I was told that there was absolutely nothing I can do.”

Meanwhile, Anna Harte complained on Twitter: “My partner was only told yesterday that they need his passport. We registered in Feb!”

Becky Horsbrugh replied: “This seems to have been an issue for weeks and the council clearly not addressed it.”

Another residents, Claire Mason tweeted: “Failure of my borough’s infrastructure means that I have been... denied a vote.”

The council blamed the high number of postal vote applications – which stands at 28,000 – and the government’s new Individual Electoral Registration which meant that they had to cross-check every application with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), via a new online registration service.

A spokesman said: “In Hackney we had a very large number of people whose details didn’t match – and also people voting from their address for the first time, which meant they needed to register under IER.

“The problem has been getting the registration confirmation from the government and then processing the postal ballot application – all of which must be verified.”

But a Cabinet office spokesman said that applications using the government’s digital service have consistently been turned around overnight by the DWP.

He added: “A small number of applications cannot be verified against DWP records, so local authorities take more time to verify against their own records or seek alternative identification from the voter. “Registration officers in all areas have been working hard to make sure everyone receives their postal votes in time.”

The council has said anyone without a postal vote can vote in person on election day instead without needing a polling card – but anyone who cannot make it there will have lost their vote.

Town Hall will also be open until 7pm for people to pick up their polling cards in person.

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