Postal vote doubles turnout in trial regions

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Indy Politics

About four in ten adults voted in the regions that experimenting with all-postal ballots, twice as many as in the previous European elections.

About four in ten adults voted in the regions that experimenting with all-postal ballots, twice as many as in the previous European elections.

Despite the allegations of malpractice and incompetence dogging the contests, ministers hailed the sharply increased turnouts as a triumph.

Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, said it had been "the biggest exercise in spreading democratic opportunity anywhere in Britain and probably anywhere in the world".

The postal voting trial took place in four English regions with a total electorate of more than 14 million - the North-west, the North-east, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands.

By yesterday afternoon, 671,088 votes had been returned in the North-east, representing 35.3 per cent of the forms sent out. In the previous European elections of 1999, the turnout in the region fell below 20 per cent, dipping to 13 per cent in some areas.

Numbers voting in the North-west, where 19.5 per cent took part in the 1999 ballot, had reached 37 per cent by Wednesday evening and was expected to reach 40 per cent.

Sir Howard Berstein, the regional returning officer, said: "It is good news turnout is climbing steadily and is now well beyond the figures reached in previous elections."

There was a similar picture in the East Midlands, where turnout had reached 36.8 per cent and was also on course to pass 40 per cent.

Up-to-date totals for Yorkshire and the Humber, where turnout was less than 20 per cent five years ago, were not available yesterday. But the figure had reached 28.2 per cent earlier in the week, with 40 per cent voting in Bradford and 34 per cent voting in Leeds, suggesting a final figure for the region of between 35 and 40 per cent.

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