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Manchester MP John Leech complains over voting problems

10 May 10 08:20 GMT

An MP whose constituency was hit by voting problems in last week's general election is lodging a formal complaint over the way the ballot was handled.

There were angry scenes at a polling station in the Manchester Withington constituency when people queuing to vote were turned away at 2200 BST.

Liberal Democrat John Leech, who was re-elected by a 1,850 majority, is writing to the Electoral Commission.

The council said it had laid on extra staff at polling stations with queues.

An estimated 200 people were refused entry to Ladybarn Community Centre in Fallowfield in Manchester at 2200 BST on Thursday.

It provoked an angry reaction from those unable to vote, with one man, Oliver Gotham, claiming: "Democracy is dead in Withington."

Commission inquiry

His MP has told the BBC he would be raising the issue with the government and the Electoral Commission.

"I'm certainly going to be pushing the government for a change in the law to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote if they've made the effort to go to the polls before 10 o'clock," Mr Leech said.

"As it happens, my majority was 1,800, so 200 people voting - whichever way they voted - would not have made a difference in the result.

"But the important thing is it could have done. If it had been a lot closer people losing out could have influenced the outcome of an election.

"So that's why it is so important we get this right and make sure that everyone who turns up does actually have a chance to vote."

A higher-than-expected turnout led to similar incidents in London, Surrey, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield.

The Electoral Commission has said that the law is "extremely clear" on who can vote up until 2200.

But it has launched a review into what happened which will look at the planning of local returning officers, their specific response to problems encountered, and "the impact of guidance, advice or support" provided by the Commission.

In a statement, Manchester City Council said: "We understand that people were frustrated that they didn't get to vote.

"We had extra members of staff that we sent to areas where there had been queues throughout the evening.

"We don't believe we could have done anything differently for the people who unfortunately didn't allow themselves enough time to vote."

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