Delays threaten pilot scheme for postal voting

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Indy Politics

Government plans to get 17 million people to vote by post in June are in danger of collapsing after potential suppliers of ballot papers warned that it is getting too late to print the ballot papers in time.

Government plans to get 17 million people to vote by post in June are in danger of collapsing after potential suppliers of ballot papers warned that it is getting too late to print the ballot papers in time.

Ministers plan to test postal voting, which they believe may boost turnout. But the paper industry believes that they may have underestimated the task of printing millions of postal ballots in time for the European and local elections. A Bill making an all-postal voting pilot legal may be passed too late to allow arrangements to be made.

Earlier this week the House of Lords blocked progress of the European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill by voting to refer the matter to the elections watchdog. The Lords think that carrying out the pilots in the North-east and East Midlands, the North-west, Yorkshire and Humberside may be overly ambitious and want the plans scaled back to prevent the risk of fraud.

One leading supplier of ballot papers has withdrawn interest in printing ballots and envelopes for the East Midlands ballot "due to the lateness of the legislation to support the pilot". And a committee of MPs has been told that there are serious concerns among printing companies about the lack of time left to produce the ballots.

De La Rue Security Products, a major supplier, gave evidence to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister committee that the time left is "already short".

Document Technology, another potential supplier, told MPs that it had not yet been told how big the ballot papers would be. "The time is rapidly arriving when suppliers will say 'too late' and walk away from the ever-increasing risk," the firm told the committee.

Adrian Sanders, the Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, said: "The clock is ticking and time is running out. My main concern is the integrity of the poll and whether people will find it easier to vote and be reassured that their vote will be secure."

The pilots are designed to test whether voter turnout will be boosted by allowing the public to send their votes through the post. The Bill will be debated by MPs next week.

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