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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Postal voting situation 'serious'
Postal vote
Five million people are expected to vote by post in the coming days.
Officials have expressed concern over the implications of postal voting, as more problems emerge across Britain.

In North Wales, officials have had more than 50 calls about envelopes not sticking, while in Lancashire 16,000 papers are having to be re-sent.

Fourteen completed ballots are said to have been sent in error to a company in Shropshire and two East Anglia councils have admitted paperwork problems.

Returning officers' leader David Monks said the situation was "very serious".

He added: "There is, I'm afraid, a very, very complex set of rules that we have to go through to send out these postal votes.

It's not a situation that we're happy with in the 21st Century
David Monks
Leader of returning officers

"It's part of the very 19th-Century system we run in this country.

"It's difficult, it's full of technical problems - I mean the majority of rules concerning elections are designed to stop fraud and, really, prevent people voting.

"It's not a situation that we're happy with in the 21st Century."

Wyre Borough Council, in Lancashire, has been forced to reissue its postal votes after it was discovered that the numbers on some ballot papers did not match those on the declaration of secrecy form.

The error affects only county council elections not the general election, the council said.

Sticky tape

A handful of similar cases has been reported to Flintshire Council in North Wales.

Concerns about non-sticking envelopes have also been raised in several constituencies in the area, including Alyn and Deeside, Delyn and the Vale of Clwyd.

Several parliamentary candidates have taken up the issue amid fears that voting slips could be lost or tampered with.

These could have been delivered to anyone else - I could have put them in the bin - but I've promised to take them to the returning officer
Polly Ernest

Officials have contacted the stationery firm which supplied the envelopes to most Welsh councils.

For the moment, returning officers are advising people to use sticky tape or other adhesive to seal the envelopes and are giving an assurance this will not invalidate the votes.

In Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon District Council says a mistake has been made on the voting paperwork sent to 6,000 people.

But a spokeswoman said letters had been sent to the voters affected, correcting the mistake.

Delivery "mix-up"

St Edmundsbury District Council, Suffolk, said a similar mistake had been made on papers sent to about 1,000 people - this had also been clarified by following letter.

Polly Ernest, who works for a mail order company in Ludlow, Shropshire, said her company received 14 postal ballots meant for the returning officer on Thursday morning.

Ms Ernest said she had spoken to the returning officer and Royal Mail but was very concerned about the security of the voting system.

"These could have been delivered to anyone else - I could have put them in the bin - but I've promised to take them to the returning officer," she told BBC News.

Royal Mail said it was taking steps to recover the ballots and ensure they were delivered correctly.

Earlier this month, a judge found postal voting fraud to be "widespread" in Birmingham's 2004 local elections.

Five million people are expected to vote by post in the coming days.





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