PUBLISHED: 15:47 06 April 2013
Concerns that residents in scores of homes in Budleigh Salterton will be excluded from voting in next month’s county council elections have been dismissed by county councillor Christine Channon.
In Exmouth former mayor Eileen Wragg said while campaigning for a recent by-election she counted 23 homes in just a short-stretch of a single road that did not have a single registered voter.
While district councillor Steve Gazzard said he was ‘shocked’ when his daughter Sarah Wright was sent a polling card despite her death five months ago.
Cllr Wragg has now written to Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) chief executive questioning if the register is being updated.
Every October electoral registration forms are sent to every home, and if a reply is not received council officers are supposed to visit.
She said: “This could be the tip of a very large iceberg.
“My main concern is if there is a fire. If the register isn’t accurate how can the emergency services know who is living there?”
She said that the problem had worsened because of the numbers of homes being sub-divided into flats.
“There could be hundreds of homes like these; without knocking on doors there is no way of knowing.”
Cllr Channon said: “I have been going through the electoral register and I can honestly say that we haven’t got an area like that in Budleigh.
“In one case there was a person who died just four weeks ago and they have been taken off the electoral register.
“I don’t know if it just older people are more assiduous when it comes to voting or someone is eager to get their 25 per cent single person’s discount when their partner dies.
“But I have been really impressed with East Devon District Council.”
An EDDC spokesman said: “Unfortunately, whilst the council was corporately aware of the situation (Sarah’s death) and had in fact supported Councillor Gazzard’s organ donor campaign, the fact that his daughter had a different surname meant this was not picked up in the elections office.
“With regard to polling cards, experience shows that these are sometimes not correctly delivered and residents are advised to contact us if their card does not come through.
“This year, a small batch of polling cards was double-handled and we apologise for this oversight.”
He added that there were many reasons why some homes were not registered including second homes and student accommodation, in which case council tax may be not payable.
He added that a new national system of electoral registration will soon come into force which tracks people of voter age not just households.