Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 14:44 UK

Polling card times printed wrong in Castle Point

By Oliver Rogers
BBC Essex

Polling station sign
Residents were told the polling station would only be open for the morning.

A local authority in Essex, Castle Point Borough Council, has admitted making a mistake on polling cards - telling voters the wrong times.

Local residents have been told they can only vote until 1000 BST rather than 2200 BST on Thursday 6 May.

Candidates in the South Essex constituency of Castle Point have criticised the printing error.

David Marchant, chief executive of Castle Point Borough Council, admitted the incident was embarrassing and they would rectify the situation quickly.

"We will deal with the political agents and the printer to make sure everyone is satisfied, so everybody has the information that they need to get to the polls at the right time, on the right day," he said.

BBC Essex spoke to one local resident, Valerie, who said: "I've voted many times and I realised this was wrong.

"My point is that, yes - we know the polling station is open all day. But there are lots of first time voters who work, will look at the card and think they cannot vote and put it straight in the bin," she said.

Ballot box
Some local residents are concerned first-time voters will be put off

Parliamentary candidates for Castle Point for the main parties were quick to condemn the mistake.

Labour's candidate Julian Ware-Lane said: "I would hope that the returning officer will instruct his staff to issue a statement to all voters pointing out the mistake.

"If the election is a close run thing, then the possibility of a legal challenge is very real.

"Castle Point Borough Council's reputation for communicating with its residents is already low - this will not improve that situation," he added.

Conservative candidate, Rebecca Harris said: "My first reaction is I'm horrified. This is such an important election for the country, that if anyone is deterred from taking the opportunity to vote it will be a disaster.

"I'm especially worried about first time voters, they need to have the correctly issued card with the right date on, but the problem we have is a very short time span."

Brendan D'Cruz, for the Liberal Democrats in Castle Point, said: "It appears to be really unfortunate that they have made this mistake on the cards, if this is the case, I can understand people being very confused.

"The key thing is that people vote, and the worst thing they can do is to reprint the cards. But some sort of information should go out to people to tell

Independent candidate Bob Spink, the former Conservative MP for the seat, said: "It shows that the council cannot be trusted to even get important jobs like voting information out correctly.

"People will be deeply worried about this as it strikes right at the heart of our democracy. I think they should reissue all cards immediately."

Candidate standing so far are Conservative, Rebecca Harris; Labour, Julian Ware-Lane; Lib Dem, Brendan D'Cruz; Independent, Bob Spink and BNP, Phil Howard.

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