Anger mounts over problems that left thousands disenfranchised

The voting system was condemned today as a throwback to the Victorian era as polling stations closed while hundreds of people were still queueing up to vote.

Jenny Watson, chairman of the Electoral Commission, promised a comprehensive review of the system after describing it as close to breaking point.

She dismissed it as "Victorian" amid growing anger at a lack of resources at several polling stations around Britain which left many voters unable to cast their ballot.

In chaotic scenes around Britain, some polling stations remained open for an extra half an hour, while others allowed no leeway at all and shut their doors. Elsewhere, voters complained of ballot papers running out and names being left off the electoral roll.

And amid growing anger at the number of people who were prevented from voting because of failings in the system there were several calls for a legal challenge.

Ms Watson said the Electoral Commission had warned for some time that the "system is at breaking point" and "clearly the law will need to be reviewed and changed".

A spokesman for Gordon Brown said: "The Prime Minister is very concerned by the reports and would support a thorough investigation into them."

Police were called in Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle Upon Tyne and several London locations as late-arriving voters found themselves locked out.

In the marginal seat of Chester, where Labour has a majority of just 973, Labour party officials claimed that more than 600 people were turned away because polling lists had not been updated.

At Nick Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituency, voters who had been turned away went to protest outside the Liberal Democrat leader's house. At the polling station in Ranmoor, where Mr Clegg cast his vote, police were called as angry voters refused to let ballot boxes leave the building.

Mr Clegg later personally apologised to voters in his constituency who were denied the chance to vote and said: "I share the bitter dismay of many of my constituents who were not able to exercise their democratic right to vote in this election.

"I visited the busiest polling station this afternoon, and in mid-afternoon there were hundreds - particularly of young voters - who were queueing for an hour and a half to vote, and I think it is just not right that hundreds later found themselves unable to exercise their right when the polls closed.

"That should never, ever happen again in our democracy."

According to Electoral Commission rules, voters served with a ballot paper by 10pm must be allowed to vote. Ballot papers are only given once voters have reached the front of any queue and their names crossed off.

Helen Jackson, the former MP for nearby Hillsborough, said the situation potentially left the result open to legal challenge. John Mothersole, returning officer for Sheffield, said: "We got this wrong and I would like to apologise. We were faced with a difficult situation with the numbers of people, and a large amount of students turning up to vote without polling cards.

In Islington South, where in 2005 Labour won with just 484 votes more than the second-placed Liberal Democrats, police were called after a number of Green Party activists demanded to be allowed to register their vote after being turned away.

In neighbouring Islington North, Green candidate Emma Dixon said she would consider legal action after voters were removed from the Highbury West polling station, where the Greens' only councillor, Katie Dawson, was up for re-election. Voters in Hackney, east London, were turned away after some had queued for more than an hour and a half. Police were called to remove protesters, some of whom it was claimed were told they would not be able to vote as early as 9.15pm.

Police were also called to a polling station in Manwood Road, Lewisham, south London, where around 300 people had yet to vote by 10pm, Scotland Yard said. A spokesman for Lewisham Council said that two polling stations remained open later than 10pm, but voters were issued with ballot papers before that time, in line with the law.

In Manchester Withington, 200 people were said to have been locked out when the polls closed.

In Sutton Coldfield, in the West Midlands, there were reports that voters had been locked inside the Mere Green Polling Station at 10pm as the queues were so long. In Merseyside, people said polling stations had run out of ballot papers. Birmingham City Council were forced to close two polling stations and turn voters away.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness