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Postal votes are in – or are they?

A formal complaint has been lodged by an evening newspaper after it found the local council was giving postal voters false information.

Several members of the public – as well as Scunthorpe Telegraph editor Jon Grubb – called North Lincolnshire Council to see if their votes had arrived back safely for the count, when in fact they had never sent them off.

In each instance, council officials told them the votes had been received at their offices.

Jon said: “We felt the system should be tested and it came as something of a shock when several people, including myself, were told we had already voted when we patently had not.

“This certainly appears to provide some fuel for the argument that the way the postal election system is being run may be flawed in some ways.

“While the Telegraph is happy to allay the fears of those who think electoral law has been broken with the way the postal votes were being issued and collected, it is also only right we should investigate other areas of the voting system.”

The Telegraph then took the decision to contact the Electoral Commission, set up by Parliament in 2000 to modernise the electoral process – to lodge a formal complaint.

A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said: “Our key objective is to make voting more accessible, but that has to be without compromising security or public confidence in the system.

“That is why the postal vote is being piloted to see if concerns like this arise.”

A spokesman for North Lincolnshire Council said: “The council apologises for an oversight that led it to conclude one or more ballot papers had been returned, when it transpires this was not the case.

“The election team is operating under enormous pressure, and at the present time the priority is to ensure those ringing in to say they have misplaced or spoilt their papers are issued with fresh ones. This is in itself a time-consuming process, with a number of necessary checks.

“Because of the workload, the council is having to look at providing one extra member of staff to help out with enquiries for the remainder of the election period – that is up to Thursday.”

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