Election '97: Record postal votes hold key to marginal seats

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The Independent Online
Record numbers of postal voters could decide the outcome in a number of seats, according to election administrators.

In Southampton Itchen, the number of applications for postal votes already received is enough to wipe out the majority won last time by Labour's John Denham. Each of the city's two marginal seats has seen 1,500 applications. "At the rate they're coming in we'll be closing in on 2,000 by next Wednesday," said Malcolm Dumper, elections officer.

Labour's majority in Itchen is only 1,053. James Hill, Tory MP for Test, Hampshire, defends a majority of 2,722. Boosted by a local-radio information campaign, postal votes will be well up on the 1,500 sent out in each seat in the last election. The deadline for applications across the country is 5pm on 16 April.