Turned away voters

Polling stations open from 0700 until 2200, yet a lot of people were not allowed to cast their votes on Thursday because the time ran out. I’ve been hearing a lot of commentary about this since Friday: I’ve been listening to people on BBC radio, I heard two people talking about it on the bus, and I read an article in The Guardian. I also saw Shami Chakrabarti on BBC Breakfast this morning talking about the subject in terms of human rights, and saying that legal action is a possibility.

Something that people have been pointing out is that there are 15 hours in which to vote. It says the opening times of the polling stations on the polling card, and the polling cards were sent out well before the election. The woman on the bus was saying to her friend that even if a person works twleve hour shifts there is still time for them to vote; if somebody does work awkward hours, a postal vote could have been arranged. A man on BBC Oxford radio said nobody would turn up to a supermarket at 2145 if they knew it was closing at 2200 and expect to be able to finish their shopping and pay. He did say it’s slightly different, but I think it is pretty much the same thing—the closing time is the closing time, and an effort should be made to get there in good time if it really matters to you that much.

I went to the polling station at around 0900. There were no queues, and I didn’t expect there to be. The idea that there could be huge queues didn’t occur to me, and maybe that is true of other people.

A number of faults have been highlighted with the how the polling is handled. Should it be that the queue is cut off at 2200, and the people already in the queue are allowed to vote? Is it a possibility to move elections to a weekend or to make the day a national holiday, effectively allowing people more time to vote and avoiding a morning and late evening rush? Should the Electoral Commission, rather than the local authority, handle voting matters to ensure that no polling station can run out of ballots, that each station is sufficiently staffed and everybody running the station is aware of the rule concerning people voting after 2200 if they are in the queue or inside the building, or whatever the rule is?

I read an article and some comments on guardian.co.uk about possible ways to transform voting. About visiting polling stations, I wonder if things should just be kept to casting a vote. Don’t worry about giving me somewhere comfortable to sit and browse the internet; it’s not a lounge. Maybe just make sure everybody is absolutely clear about when the last vote can be cast, and make sure everybody is able to cast their vote on time.

There is a review being carried out by the Electoral Commission of what happened on Thursday. It’ll be interesting to know what they have to say about it all, particularly about people under 18 being sent a polling card. Once they review the problems and take measures to ensure they don’t happen again, surely that is all that’s needed (or is there any chance of having a re-run of the election to include the missed out votes?).


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