Chaos at Hackney Town Hall as disenfranchised queue for vote

Photo @yearsandyears "We r trying to get our vote @ Hackney town hall due to massive registration f

Photo @yearsandyears "We r trying to get our vote @ Hackney town hall due to massive registration failure #hackney #election2015 CHAOS" - Credit: Archant

There was chaos outside Hackney Town Hall this morning as queues of frustrated disenfranchised voters blasted the council’s election preparation as a “shambles”.

Yesterday the Gazette broke the news that Hackney Council had 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 today.

The 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 and that first time voters and those who had recently moved into the borough have also been affected.

Tom Hodgkins estimated there were up to 50 people waiting in the Mare Street Town Hall entrance at 9am to sort out their votes, but it was not until 10am that just one single official turned up to deal with the masses.

Mr Hodgkins, who has recently moved to the borough from Herefordshire, filled in various forms to apply for a vote and was in email correspondence with electoral services, but only discovered yesterday he is not even registered.

He said: “It’s frustrating, it seems like there are loads of different issues there today, I don’t understand how in this day and age it can be so slipshod. I’ve effectively been disenfranchised by this process.

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“Fortunately it’s a safe Labour seat,” he added.

Meanwhile, @Years&Years tweeted: “We r trying to get our vote @ Hackney town hall due to massive registration failure #hackney #election2015 CHAOS.”

And Clare Qualmann added: “Waiting with the disenfranchised at hackney town hall - it’s getting angry and chaotic. Been here since 9am 30+ people here.”

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.”