Watchdog launches inquiry into chaos at polling stations

The electoral Commission announced yesterday that it will launch an investigation into why thousands of people were unable to cast their votes during one of the most chaotic general elections in recent memory.

At polling booths up and down the country, scores of constituents were turned away because election officials failed to process their ballots quickly enough to meet the 10pm deadline that officially draws all voting to an end.

Problems were worst in densely populated urban areas, where high numbers of people work long hours and tend to head to the polls towards the end of the day.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson admitted that the country's "Victorian" voting system had been close to breaking point because of the high turnout. Yesterday, the Commission issued a statement saying officials would conduct an investigation into what went wrong.

"It is a cause for serious concern that many people who wanted to vote were unable to do so by 10pm when polls closed," the statement said. "There should have been sufficient resources allocated to ensure that everyone who wished to vote was able to do so."

Turnout for the 2010 election was higher than previous years at around 65 per cent, compared to 61.4 per cent in 2005 and 59.4 per cent in 2001, which was an historic low. But this year's figure is still well below the turnouts of the 1970s, which peaked at 77 per cent.

This year's general election has also been marred by an unprecedented number of electoral fraud accusations. The Metropolitan Police is investigating two cases of electoral fraud in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Ealing in London and is assessing a further 23 claims across the capital.

Greater Manchester Police have also confirmed that they are looking into electoral fraud in Oldham, Rochdale, Manchester, Blackburn and Bolton. Many of the allegations revolve around postal ballot claims – a system that critics have long warned is open to abuse.

Despite the widespread concerns that fraudulent postal votes may have been used in key marginals with thin majorities, the Electoral Commission said yesterday that it would not launch a separate investigation into electoral fraud.

Voters who were unable to cast their ballots vented their frustration yesterday. More than 2,500 students at Sheffield Hallam University joined a Facebook group accusing election officials of discriminating against them in favour of permanent residents.

Staff at the St John's Ranmoor polling booth were forced to create two separate queues after they became overwhelmed by the numbers of people turning up to vote. Students said they remained unable to cast their votes while permanent residents were ushered to the front of a much shorter queue.

Dani Beckett, president of the university's students' union, said: "It was completely outrageous and a form of blatant discrimination. It was as if our votes didn't matter as much."

Sheffield City Council initially blamed the delays on students turning up late in the day without their polling cards, but last night they backtracked and admitted that they had failed to prepare adequately for the high turnout.

"We were faced with a difficult situation of a rising turnout – over 10 per cent more than the last general election – we accept we got it wrong at a few polling stations and appreciate this caused concern and upset for residents," a spokesman said.

There were further reports of voters being turned away from polling stations in Liverpool, Manchester, London and Newcastle.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
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

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Software Solution Technician - Peterborough - up to £21,000

£20000 - £21000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Solutio...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering