Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 11:42 UK

Review into polling station delays across England

Queues outside polling station

Hundreds of people have been denied the chance to vote after being turned away from polling stations across England.

Voters in London, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham were left queuing outside polling stations after they closed at 2200 BST.

The Electoral Commission said it would carry out a "thorough review".

The Conservatives have won the most MPs but have fallen short of an overall majority, resulting in a hung parliament.

Three-hour queues

There were angry scenes at several polling stations in England, with voters claiming they were understaffed.

Three-hour queues were seen in Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's constituency of Sheffield Hallam, prompting him to apologise to voters.

Police were called to polling stations in Ranmoor and Woodseats in Sheffield to move voters who were refusing to leave.

John Mothersole, Sheffield City Council chief executive and returning officer, has apologised to those unable to vote.

He said: "We got this wrong and I would like to apologise."

Voters confront a returning officer in Manchester

Mr Mothersole said the council was "caught out" by high turnouts.

In Liverpool, voters were left waiting to vote at one polling station after it ran out of ballot papers.

Officials at the Dunbabin Road station in the Wavertree constituency had to send for more.

Voters had to to be locked in some polling stations in Birmingham to control crowds after long queues formed.

Amy Commander was turned away from the St Paul's polling station at 2205 BST after joining the queue at 2115 BST.

She said: "The police were called to clear the polling station and deal with rightfully angry and shouting crowds."

The Electoral Commission said if people had been issued their ballot paper by 2200 BST they were still legally able to vote after that time.

'Victorian' system

It promised a "thorough review" of what had happened in constituencies where people were unable to vote.

Chairwoman Jenny Watson, who described the current system as "Victorian", said that if there were constituencies which had not followed the rules, they could be subject to challenges.

She said returning officers would have to "answer to us and answer to local voters".

She told BBC News: "The law is extremely clear. They have the guidance, they should have done what the law says.

"If they haven't done that... they may well be subject to election petitions."

David Monks, from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace), defended returning officers and said the system was in need of modernisation.

He said the problems were down to a "late surge" of voters arriving at polling stations after 2100 BST.

Mr Monks argued that extra staffing at polling stations would not have helped because each station had just one register, with one person ticking off names.

John Mothersole from Sheffield City Council

The Electoral Reform Society said it was not expecting major repercussions following the problems at some polling stations overnight.

Spokesman Ashley De said: "The Electoral Commission does have some powers in this regard but we are not expecting this to go very far at all.

"There may be a report, it may change practice, but it's certainly not going to affect what happened last night."

In London, a Metropolitan Police spokesman described queues of 300 "disappointed people" unable to vote in Lewisham and 150 in Hackney.

Andrew Boff, Conservative mayoral candidate in Hackney, said it was "getting ugly" after people were told they could not vote at a polling station with just three staff.

Voters at a Hackney polling station staged a sit-in protest at being unable to vote.

The Archbishop of York said it was "scandalous" that hundreds of people were unable to exercise their vote in such a closely fought election.

He said: "I have in my own way been encouraging people to vote and I am bitterly disappointed that they were not able to do so.

"We all knew that this would be a closely fought election and how important each vote would be and I find it very hard to believe that arrangements were not in place to accommodate increased voter turnout."

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