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Postal vote error in key election battleground

Walsall | News | Published:

More than 25,000 Walsall voters could be affected by 'confusing' postal vote envelopes that would see their cast votes being sent back to them.

Ivor Bolton discovered the error when he put his voting papers in the pre-paid return envelope and his own address was shown through the envelope window rather than the Returning Officer's.

The same thing happened to his wife and two children.

The 68-year-old retired teacher from Bloxwich was about to post his vote when he realised the mistake.

It transpired the return envelope was identical to the one the voting instructions and voting papers were sent in.

Despite there being an address window, there was no way the Returning Officers' address at Walsall Council could be shown. It means the only option is to handwrite the correct address.

Mr Bolton, who lives in the marginal Walsall North constituency, telephoned the election office at Walsall Council and was told 'that is how it arrived from the printers'.

He said: "At best it is confusing and at worst someone totally unaware could send it off only for it to appear through their own letter box in a few days time.

"There is a real chance of disenfranchisement and some may even think that they were sent a second one by mistake and just throw it away. Given Walsall North is a marginal constituency it is vastly important all votes are received securely and correctly as mistakes could swing the result one way or another."

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Mr Bolton has used postal votes for more than 15 years. In his household his wife Elaine, 52, son Kris, 25, and daughter Justine, 23, all use postal votes and encountered the same problem.

In the Walsall North constituency there was 5,794 postal votes cast in 2010 – around a seventh of the total vote. Labour's candidate David Winnick won in 2010 with just 990 votes.

Susan Wright, electoral services manager at Walsall Council, said:

"Since mailing the 25,000 postal vote packs which started on April 21 the council has helped a handful of residents who have required assistance with the postal voting."

"If Mr Bolton did receive a pack without envelope B he would be one of only a couple of people known to the council ." All postal votes need to be returned by 10pm on May 7.

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