Postal vote chaos sparks calls for longer election campaigns - as tens of thousands await arrival of their ballot

2 July 2024, 08:35 | Updated: 2 July 2024, 16:12

The Electoral Commission confirmed to LBC that tens of thousands of postal votes were only sent out to people this weekend
The Electoral Commission confirmed to LBC that tens of thousands of postal votes were only sent out to people this weekend. Picture: Alamy
Connor Hand

By Connor Hand

UK election campaigns may need to be extended in order to avoid future postal vote chaos, LBC has learned, as tens of thousands await their ballot paper.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Concerns are mounting that many people could be disenfranchised as a result of delays and errors in the distribution of postal votes.

The Electoral Commission confirmed to LBC that tens of thousands of postal votes were only sent out to people this weekend, with the body, which oversees elections in the UK, blaming the holiday season for the issues they have experienced.

Government minister grilled on postal vote chaos as thousands fail to receive ballots

  • Join LBC for Britain Decides our election night coverage, starting Thursday at 10pm. Our flagship program will be led by Andrew Marr and Shelagh Fogarty, with The News Agents' Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall providing expert analysis as results unfold. This comprehensive seven-hour show will be broadcast live on LBC, Global Player, TikTok, and YouTube, with a simulcast on LBC News. Stay tuned for real-time updates and insightful commentary throughout this pivotal night in British politics.

According to the Association of Electoral Administrators, which represents those working at local polling stations, a record 10 million voters are planning on casting their ballot via post, representing around 20-25% of the electorate.

The organisation’s chief executive, Peter Stanyon, said the problems experienced at this election should result in future campaigns being extended in order to cope with demand.

Mr Stanyon said: “Most people in the delivery of elections will argue for a longer timetable. We’re talking about twenty-four days for a returning officer to execute a massive logistical exercise.

“As an association, we have been arguing for a thirty-day timetable, which would be the same as that which works for a

Energy Security secretary Claire Coutinho told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast it is absolutely crucial postal vote issues are resolved as "130,000 people across the country" can change the outcomes of the seats they live in.

Questioned on the problem surrounding delays to postal ballots, with tens of thousands of people still waiting for their forms, Claire Coutinho told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast the Royal Mail have hired extra people.

"I think it's absolutely critical that people are able to cast their votes. I have had a few people locally who haven't had their postal votes through.

"I know that the Royal Mail have hired extra people and are trying to solve this problem and it's absolutely crucial that they do because this really matters.

"Like I said, it's only 130,000 people across the country who can change the outcomes, in those seats that they are in and it's really vital that people are able to cast those votes."

Asked how she got to the 130,000, Coutinho said it comes from an independent source.

"I think it's YouGov actually, it's not us, it's an independent analysis. But even then you could look at all these different polls and analysis and it will tell you... a number of seats are actually very, very marginal this time".

Tens of thousands are still awaiting their ballot paper.
Tens of thousands are still awaiting their ballot paper. Picture: Alamy

Read more: Labour would work with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party to tackle small boats crisis, Starmer says

Read more: 'Nice to see you.. my name is Theresa May': Former PM leaves message on Ring camera while canvassing in Scotland

Currently, there must be a minimum of 25 working days between the dissolution of parliament and polling day; under the association’s proposals, however, that would have to be increased to 30 days as professionals can only begin the process of distributing ballots once dissolution has taken place.

People who have applied for a postal ballot are not eligible to vote in person without it.

This applies even to those who have not received theirs due to delivery problems, as they are considered to have already been issued a live ballot paper. They will be required to contact their local council to request a replacement postal vote - a request they can make up until 5pm on the day of the election.

For many, though, it is already too late to rectify their problems.

Julie Jackson applied for a postal ballot for her 20-year-old daughter, Katie, who would have been voting in her first election, knowing that she would be out of the country on polling day.

However, despite applying weeks ago, and to the dismay of her mother, the ballot did not arrive before Katie went on holiday.

Julie told LBC that she had “applied in good time”, and had even received an email from the local council saying the postal vote had been allowed and would be sent.

However, despite receiving correspondence saying her daughter’s postal vote would arrive by June 21st, there was no sign of the letter, prompting her to contact the council.

“I phoned the local authority, and they confirmed the postal vote had been sent out, but we still haven’t received it," she said.

"My daughter has now gone on holiday, so she’s been denied the right to vote in her first general election - which I’m quite cross and sad about.”

It is believed that delays in the delivery of postal votes has hit at least a dozen marginal seats, including Chingford and Woodford Green, Rutland and Stamford, and six Scottish seats.

Scotland’s First Minister, John Swinney, has said he is “very concerned” voters could be “disenfranchised” as a result of the issues.
Scotland’s First Minister, John Swinney, has said he is “very concerned” voters could be “disenfranchised” as a result of the issues. Picture: Alamy

Over the weekend, several councils in Scotland, including Edinburgh, Borders, Highlands and Fife, opened up emergency centres for those yet to receive their ballot papers. It is believed that supply chain issues have led to a delay in the printing of ballot papers in these regions.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission has told LBC that “pressures” in the system have been created by the holiday season.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “We recognise the pressures on the postal voting system due to the holiday season [and] we are continuing to provide advice and guidance to electoral services teams to support them with the postal voting process.”

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, schools have concluded for the year, meaning many families applied for a postal vote knowing that they would be abroad on the day of the general election.

Scotland’s First Minister, John Swinney, has said he is “very concerned” that these voters could be “disenfranchised” as a result of these issues.

Yet speaking to journalists on Monday, the prime minister’s spokesperson said Rishi Sunak does not share Mr Swinney’s anxieties.

“We’re working closely with the Electoral Commission, returning officers, Royal Mail and the print suppliers to support the resolution of these issues," they said.

“We understand that the Royal Mail will also be conducting sweeps of their delivery system on polling day to make sure that any ballot packs still in the postal system are identified and passed to returning officers ahead of polls closing.”

However, Mr Sunak’s candidate in Perth and Kinross-shire, Luke Graham, believes the problems could result in him losing his seat.

“It absolutely could be the difference between winning or losing. It impacts all parties, but I’ve had at least 20 people contacting me to say they have not had their ballot paper before going away on holiday.

“It’s incredibly frustrating – nobody should be disenfranchised like this… I don’t know whether it’s the Royal Mail or the printing company but there needs to be an investigation and action taken.”

Responding to the delays, a Royal Mail spokesman said: “We have a specialist elections team that plans every aspect of the elections delivery programmes and works closely with local authorities to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

“Where concerns have been raised, such as in Scotland, we have investigated and confirmed all votes are being delivered as soon as they enter our network.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

A burnt out car in the Leeds suburb of Harehills, after vehicles were set on fire and a police car was overturned as residents were warned to stay home following an outbreak of disorder on Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2024.

Further unrest in Leeds as hundreds take to streets to 'demand return of children' allegedly removed from local family

NHS England has warned of "continued disruption" to GP services into next week.

NHS warns of GP disruption after global IT outage as travel services remain in chaos

Planes, trains and roads have been hit by travel chaos following Friday's IT outage.

Holiday hell: Trains, planes and roads in chaos after global IT outage - with thousands of Brits stranded abroad

Graham Gomm

Prisoner who escaped custody at HMP Wormwood Scrubs during hospital trip is arrested following manhunt

Charles and Camilla attend the King's Parade outside Pomme d'Or Hotel, Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey

Charles and Camilla 'rushed to safety by security' after suspect 'spotted on roof' just days after Trump rally shooting

A highway bridge collapsed in northwest China.

At least 12 people dead and more than 30 missing after China bridge collapses due to flooding

Ray Reardon has died

Snooker legend Ray Reardon dies aged 91 after cancer battle

Steve Baker and Tom Tugendhat

Top Tory reveals why he is backing Tom Tugendhat to 'put the party back together' as leader

The National Lottery site and app is down

National Lottery down as users unable to access site and app day after global IT outage

Thousands of flights were cancelled across the globe on Friday.

Travel misery continues as global IT outage 'could take weeks to clear' - with over 5,000 flights cancelled worldwide

Nadiya Bychkova allegedly made a complaint to Strictly bosses

Strictly pro Nadiya Bychkova breaks silence over 'complaint' amid misconduct scandal

An independent review has recommended teachers and nurses get 5.5% pay rises

Teachers and nurses among millions of public sector workers that should get 5.5% pay rise, ministers told

Tom Tugendhat

Two top Tories back Tom Tugendhat to be next Conservative leader

Shockat Adam

Independent MP who dedicated surprise win to Gaza 'hit with death threat'

The Tavistock Centre

'No evidence' curbs on puberty blockers have led to rise in suicide among trans children, report finds

Thousands of flights were cancelled across the globe on Friday.

Boss of company behind global IT outage 'sincerely apologises' for worldwide chaos sparked by software bug