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Stoke-on-Trent City Council acting returning officer Paul Hackney said: “Around 19,000 postal votes were issued on Monday (20 April) to Stoke-on-Trent residents for the parliamentary and local elections on May 7.
“We became aware on Tuesday of a small number of discrepancies in ballot papers issued to residents in two of the 37 wards – Little Chell and Stanfield, where around 400 postal votes were issued; and Burslem Park, where around 380 were issued. The discrepancies appear to show that for a small number of people, the numbers on the issued ballot papers do not match with the number on the declaration that the voter has to sign in order to cast their vote. This was due to an administrative error, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused to residents.
“As soon as we were made aware of the issue, we took swift action to cancel the ballot papers. New postal vote packs will be issued for the two wards.
“This situation is unprecedented for the city, and very disappointing. We always strive for accuracy, and I’d like to reassure residents and candidates that we are continuing to monitor the situation extremely closely. We are carrying out spot checks on postal votes issued throughout the city to ensure that our usual very high standards are being maintained as thoroughly as possible. We take this situation extremely seriously.
“The new postal vote packs will be accompanied by an apology and an explanation, and wherever possible will be hand delivered at the earliest opportunity.”
Should any residents have concerns about the postal votes that they have been issued, they can call the elections office on 01782 233800, or email email@example.com.
POSTAL VOTES FAQs
How did this error happen?
An administrative error occurred in the issuing of postal ballot papers on Monday. It would appear that a small number of ballot papers have been issued out of sync, so that the numbers on the ballot papers do not identically match those on the declaration that postal voters need to sign.
It is purely human error, which was brought to our attention by residents in the Little Chell and Stanfields, and Burslem Park wards affected.
Why do ballot papers need numbering – isn’t it supposed to be a secret vote?
Ballots are conducted in secret, and it is the right of residents to be able to vote. Ballot papers are numbered, purely for security purposes, to help safeguard against people from fraudulently using your vote. They are only cross-checked in cases where legal proceedings are required.
How many ballot papers have been affected?
We have been contacted by small numbers of residents in each of the two wards affected. We stress that the numbers are small, but in order to ensure that all postal voters in the two wards have the correct ballot papers, it is necessary to reissue them all. In total around 400 postal votes were issued in Little Chell and Stanfield, and 380 in Burslem Park. A total of 19,000 postal votes have been issued across the city, so only around four per cent of postal votes issued have been affected. In total, 200,141 people are registered to vote in Stoke-on-Trent.
How can you be confident that there aren’t any other wards affected?
With such a large scale operation, there is scope for human error to occur, but in the worst case scenario, we would only anticipate potential discrepancies with a very small handful of postal votes issued across the city.
As soon as we became aware of the issue we were able to swiftly analyse the nature of the concerns by residents and the geography of the areas affected. It became apparent that we would need to look at the whole ward area for each of the two wards. From this analysis, it is clear that only those two wards have been affected in this way. However, we would still advice any residents who are uncertain, or who have concerns, to please get in touch.
What action are you taking?
We moved swiftly as soon as we became aware of the extent of the problem. The acting returning officer used powers under section 46 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 to correct procedural errors and, following consultation with the Electoral Commission, cancelled all the postal votes issued in the two wards – for both parliamentary and local elections, and reissue postal votes in the two wards.
Wherever possible, once these decisions were made, the relevant candidates and agents were contacted and briefed. The replacement postal voting packages will be accompanied by a letter containing an apology together with an explanation, and will wherever possible be delivered by hand at the earliest opportunity.
What advice are you giving to residents?
This issue has affected a very small amount of ballot papers. The vast majority of postal votes will have been correctly issued, following our usual extremely high standards. We are asking residents to not panic, but to check the numbers on their ballot papers and their declaration to ensure that they are identical.
If residents have any concerns, they can contact the elections team directly via 01782 233800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voters have until close of poll on polling day – 10pm on Thursday 7 May to return their postal votes.
What do I do if I have any other queries around voting or registration?
If you have any queries at all about voting or registration, please contact the elections team directly on 01782 233800 or email@example.com