Latest Hackney election fiasco sees rejected postal voters told: You got your own birthday wrong
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 June 2016
More people are having problems trying to vote in Hackney. Some had postal ballots rejected last month; others can't vote in the EU Referendum. Sam Gelder spoke to them.
Will the gremlins in Hackney Council’s voting system ever go away? As the Town Hall tackles its second polling day in as many months, more people have complained of problems casting their vote.
Some postal voters received letters at the start of June telling them their votes in the London Mayor and GLA elections had been rejected because the date of birth they supplied did not match the one held on record.
Other voters have been denied the chance to cast their vote in the EU Referendum next week over minor administrative errors on their application.
The council wouldn’t confirm how many postal voters had their votes rejected due to the birthday discrepancies,but returning officer Tim Shields said the council would never reject a ballot it didn’t have to.
He said those affected must have entered the wrong date of birth or not provided one on their voting paper – something 74-year-old Jeanette Frost took issue with.
“I’m not that senile,” said Jeanette, of Wyersdale House, Woodberry Down. “I feel disgusted, I have never not voted. I come from a generation where your parents told you: ‘You must vote whatever you do. People have died to give you your vote.’ I have never missed one.
“If it messed up, why didn’t they phone? The people at the council don’t know what they’re doing. They are nice to you but they’re asking one another what to do and you get told different things.
“Your birthday is something you don’t forget. No one can show me this form that they say I filled in wrongly.”
Jeanette, who was told to re-register for her postal vote for the EU Referendum, added: “I am now just going to send off anything they send me. I’ve had enough.
“They sent me a form to vote and another registration form. I filled them both in and sent them together.”
Problems have been rife since the Individual Electoral Registration system was brought in ahead of last year’s General Election, requiring every person in a household to register individually.
The town hall’s election team failed to get to grips with the system, which was fast tracked by government, causing 1,300 people to nearly miss out on their vote.
Officers ended up having to send out emergency lists to polling stations with the names of people who were not on the electoral register but who had signed up to vote in good time.
That team was replaced earlier this year following a damning report by the electoral commission, but the problems don’t seem to have stopped.
The day after the deadline to register closed last week, Rhiannon Wastell received a letter saying her application had not been successful “for the following reason”. The letter did not include any reason and she said Hackney has since told her they have no record of the letter, so fingers crossed for Rhiannon.
Another woman won’t be able to cast her vote on the UK’s EU membership because she listed her address as “Flat C”, rather than “Flat 3”.
But Mr Shields insisted: “We want everyone eligible to vote to be able to have their say.”
On those who had their postal votes rejected in May, he said: “Dates of birth given on postal ballots are matched against the details provided by the elector.
“If this is incorrect it is rejected by our IT system. We then manually check it and if it’s a case of someone missing a ‘0’ off the start of a date, we can override that. However, if someone enters the wrong date of birth or doesn’t provide a date of birth at all, it must be rejected.
“This is the law and we have no discretion over it.”
Mr Shields met MP Diane Abbott on Friday over issues involving her constituents.