North-east assembly may be last all-postal ballot

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The referendum to create England's first elected regional assembly could be the last to use all-postal ballots, Nick Raynsford, the Local Government minister, said yesterday.

The referendum to create England's first elected regional assembly could be the last to use all-postal ballots, Nick Raynsford, the Local Government minister, said yesterday.

He said the Government would follow the "broad thrust" of a report by the Electoral Commission, which left plans for all-postal voting in disarray by declaring that allegations of abuse had undermined public confidence.

The Commission said that people should still be given the option of casting their vote at polling stations after unease at the performance of the postal ballots during June's local and European elections. It criticised difficulties with logistics, the complexity of the voting system, and reports of abuse.

Asked whether the all-postal vote in the North-east in November may be the last of its kind, Mr Raynsford said: "It may well be."

He told the BBC: "I would be entirely relaxed about a future which gave people the opportunity of voting by post, because clearly that has helped to increase turnout and participation - that must be a good thing. But [we must] also provide choice."

Mr Raynsford said the pilots showed that only a minority of people were dissatisfied with all-postal voting. He added: "But you are quite right to say that they believe that there should be choice, and people of course support the principle of choice where there would be options for voting in person, voting by post, possibly voting electronically."

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