Chance to vote denied after form delay

PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 May 2015

Archant

Two voters in Budleigh have hit out at an ‘outrageous’ postal vote delay, which they say denied them the chance to vote in last week’s elections.

Donald Oldham and wife Julia Vaughan Smith, of Granary Lane, asked for postal votes after realising they would be away on holiday on polling day, May 7.

They say they were told by East Devon District Council (EDDC), which ran the town, district and general elections on that date, that their voting forms would be sent out on April 27, only to then, after the forms did not arrive as scheduled, to be told that their forms had been put in a ‘second batch’ which was not posted until April 30 – the day they left.

Mr Oldham says this was particularly galling for him and his wife, as they had specifically explained the dates they would be leaving to EDDC.

Mr Oldham said: “As soon as our voting cards arrived, we contacted EDDC to apply for postal votes. We were told that the ballot papers would be sent out on April 27, arriving in time for us to complete before we went away.

“We returned the forms, which arrived at EDDC on April 18, well within the deadline of April 21. The ballot papers had not arrived by April 29, so we phoned EDDC to ask why.

“We were told that the Returning Officer had decided to send out the ballot papers in two batches and ours was in the second batch being posted out on April 30, despite their having had our completed forms for 12 days.

“In this decision, we have been denied the right to vote in the town, district and national elections.

“This is an outrageous state of affairs.

“This is the first time since my wife and I have been eligible to vote that we have been unable to do so.

“We have been failed by an arbitrary, late decision apparently made by the Returning Officer.

“We feel strongly that there needs to be an investigation to ensure this cannot happen again.”

In response, an EDDC spokesman said: “Out of the 11,000 postal ballot papers that were issued by Electoral Services in East Devon, only a fraction were received later than they should. 
“Because Mr Oldham’s request for a postal ballot paper was not received until after April 10, it missed the first batch of ballot papers that was sent to the printers and was therefore included in the second batch that was sent on April 21.

“These were received back here on April 29 and posted out first class on April 30. 
“We are deeply sorry that the Oldham’s missed the chance to vote, but if a voter is going abroad we always recommend that it is a better option to appoint a proxy. 
“We also normally suggest that if there is any doubt, it is better if residents come in and collect their postal ballots papers from Knowle.”

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