Election 2010: Polling station queues prompt row
A bitter row has broken out between returning officers and the elections watchdog over people who were unable to vote.As voters awoke to predictions of a hung parliament with the Tories holding the most seats, large numbers of last-minute votes led to long queues at polling stations across the country leaving returning officers little option but to obey election rules and turn people away.
High turnouts in key wards, longer candidate lists and the combined local elections added up to significant delays.
But official rules, set by the Electoral Commission, meant officials had to shut the doors at 10pm.
Police were called to a polling station in Lewisham where around 300 people had yet to vote by 10pm and Islington South in London.
Lewisham did manoeuvre its way around election rules by allowing waiting voters to be 'locked in' to a polling station until 10.30pm so they could cast their votes, half an hour after the polls were officially closed.
Speaking live to the BBC over night, SOLACE elections head David Monks blamed 'the very Victorian system' of voting that we have in this country. He called for the current counts to be scrapped in favour of a more modern approach to the polls.
He added: 'There are issues which are very special today, with a surge in late voting.'
When asked if the elections would have to be re-run, Mr Monks said it was up to the candidates to decide whether they wanted to challenge the results through the courts.
In Sheffield Hallam, the seat of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, the City Council admitted people who had queued round the block had been unable to vote and that part of the problem was students not knowing their correct address.
Mr Clegg said the ‘situation should never, never happen again’.
Sheffield’s chief executive described the problem as ‘wrong and embarrassing’. But several returning officers took the decision to ignore the rule book and allow people to cast their vote.
The Electoral Commission warned that they were expecting people to challenge the results with official complaints and promised a ‘thorough review’.
Head of the watchdog, Jenny Watson said it will be reporting into the problem and launched a scathing attack on the ‘creaking Victorian system’ they had inherited.
The chair of the commission criticised the decision to keep the polling booths open: ‘What I don’t understand why our guidance, which has been so clear, has not been followed.’
She added: ‘We’ve been telling ministers for years that the system needs overhauling. There are changes that need to be made.’
In Brent, London, which faced no voting problems, despite having local and general elections.
Brent chief executive Gareth Daniel, backed councils saying ‘knocking copy during the night has been outrageous’.
He told LocalGov.co.uk: 'This is the most complicated election that I’ve had here, with a very high turnout, almost double in the case of the council elections, and a big increase in postal votes. I’d say 99.9% of the election has been run meticulously. This is a local government success story.’
The rows marred an otherwise smooth night, which saw wave after wave of results delivered despite the political upheavals.
First to declare was Houghton and Sunderland South where Sunderland City Council maintained its tradition of winning the race by announcing the verdict of a Labour win in 51 minutes.
The full results in the local elections will be confirmed on Friday evening as most councils have focused on the general election counts.
The result of the mayoral referendum in Tower Hamlets Council is expected 6pm Friday.
Polling should take place either on Saturday or Sunday, or both days. Electoral reform is needed urgently.Jalal Uddin, London Bangladshi Association, Added: Monday, 10 May 2010 11:49 AM
The whole election has been a farce from start to finish and the voting system must be changed. Its going to be nothing but the 2 main parties for many, many years.Marc Hunkdingdon, Added: Friday, 7 May 2010 09:12 AM
|Back||Top of page|