Election 2017: Admin errors deny dozens of voters chance to cast ballots in marginal seat

Paul Farrelly, the Labour candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme, says he plans to refer the council to the Electoral Commission

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 08 June 2017 18:56
General Election 2017: The key moments

Dozens of voters have been denied the chance to cast their ballots in a marginal seat amid claims of administrative errors.

Postal votes were reportedly not sent out and some potential voters, including students, were turned away from polling stations.

Paul Farrelly, the Labour candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme, said he planned to refer the council to the Electoral Commission over the “shambles”, which he said had prevented at least 50 people from voting.

The Independent has heard from student voters who were turned away from a polling station near Keele University despite having registered to vote online.

Jonathan Price, 21, said he was told his name was not on the electoral roll when he arrived to vote on Thursday morning. Other people he knew had experienced similar problems, he said.

“It could actually make the difference here,” he said.

Newcastle-under-Lyme was won by Mr Farrelly in 2015 with a vote share of 38.4 per cent. The Tory candidate came second with 36.9 per cent of the vote.

Mr Price said he was eventually able to vote after calling a council hotline, but others would not know to contact the local authority directly and would have left the polling station without voting.

It is claimed that in some areas, the printed electoral registers used in polling stations were out of date and did not include those who had recently registered.

Several students used the Keele University Freshers’ Facebook page to complain that they had also been turned away.

One wrote: “There is apparently nothing anybody can do – I just can’t vote.”

Another said: “It’s an absolute joke. Glad I’ll never have to vote here again.”

Mr Farrelly said: “The Electoral Services Department here in Newcastle is a shambles and there is chaos, which is denying people votes on a scale unprecedented in my 30 years fighting and organising elections.

“We have spent the past week fire fighting on over scores of postal votes, which have not arrived, and we not only have lots of registration applications that have not been processed, but people – including students – being turned away when they are indeed registered.”

The Independent contacted Newcastle-under-Lyme council but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Claims of voters being turned away in the Midlands follow reports of “admin errors” preventing voters in London from casting their ballots.

Party leaders cast their election votes

John Fairhurst, who lives in the Finchley and Golders Green seat, which is ranked as the 65th most marginal of the Tories’ 331 seats, registered to vote on the Government’s website on deadline day but was later told he would not be able to vote.

“It is impossible to maintain any faith in the current system,” Mr Fairhurst said.

“Every vote counts in this election and I demand the right to be able to cast the vote for which I registered.”

His experience was echoed by others, including Rachel Allmand, who claimed she was denied a vote after an “admin error” by Waltham Forest council.

She told The Independent she was also denied an emergency proxy vote and would be unable to cast her ballot.

Hundreds of voters in Plymouth were also left without postal voting forms just days before the election.

Plymouth City Council said it had reissued “around 370 replacement ballot packs” to those who contacted them.

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