Fear of postal voting election fiasco

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Indy Politics

Chaos over postal ballots could delay the result of the crucial elections for the European Parliament and town halls across England on 10 June.

Chaos over postal ballots could delay the result of the crucial elections for the European Parliament and town halls across England on 10 June.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, will fly back to Britain today from a 24-hour official visit to Mexico to a storm of criticism after it emerged postal ballot papers had been incorrectly printed or may not be delivered on time.

Candidates are already preparing legal challenges to the results, the Tory spokesman, Bernard Jenkin, told BBC Radio 4's World At One.

Lord Rennard, the Liberal Democrat chief executive, compared the confusion over postal votes to the US Presidential election row over counting irregularities in Florida which handed victory to George Bush.

There were no allegations of corruption last night, but the Tories and the Liberal Democrats accused Mr Prescott's ministers of incompetence in failing to ensure the proper delivery of the postal ballot papers.

Nearly a quarter of a million vote papers are having to be reprinted in Stockport, North West, where voters are to be issued with new ballot papers after the original papers were found to contain an "unacceptable" number of mistakes. Returning officer John Schultz said "rigid" checks will be in place so there is no chance of anybody's vote being counted twice. Voters in part of Oldham received ballot papers with the wrong ward's candidates' names on.

Others experiencing problems include: Sheffield, where 100 ballot papers have had to be reprinted; and Bradford, where 500,000 ballot papers have yet to be delivered.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Chris Leslie said there had been problems at two printing firms. But contingency measures were working and he last night said he was confident the 1 June deadline would be met.

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