The voting fiasco that took place in Manchester Withington on polling day on Thursday May 6th should never happen again.
There were problems at three polling stations in Manchester Withington constituency that resulted in voters being turned away and denied the right to vote.
The three polling stations in question which have been reported to Manchester city council chief executive Howard Bernstein and the electoral commission were Didsbury United Reformed Church, Fallowfield Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club, and Ladybarn Community Centre.
All three of the above polling stations had real problems on polling day which resulted in voters being turned away unable to vote at 10pm it is estimated just over 200 people missed out on the opportunity to vote in Manchester Withington constituency.
There were angry scenes at Ladybarn Community Centre which resulted in the police being called to deal with the situation.
This polling station, covering two polling districts in Withington ward part of the Manchester Withington constituency was responsible for 6,655 parliamentary electors in Manchester Withington.
I have reported this to both the Chief Executive of Manchester City Council and the electoral commission. I’m certainly going to be pushing the government for a change in the law to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote if they’ve made the effort to go to the polls before 10 o’clock.
What disappointed me was that Ladybarn Community Centre was responsible for 6,655 parliamentary voters double the usual number of voters, yet did not allocate an appropriate number of staff using only one table for the registers and only four voting booths in which to cast one’s vote.
We did voice concerns on May 6th about the queues that were developing in the Ladybarn polling station and recommended that more staff should be allocated to deal with the queues.
The cost cutting nature of this Labour-run Manchester City Council has cost democracy here in Manchester Withington and this must never happen again.
I am of the view that if you arrive before 10pm then you are entitled to vote, many people are stating that people left it too late.
I would argue that this is contradictory as it incorporates a prejudged view that there will be a substantial delay and a queue expected in the polling station when in fact it should take less than three minutes for someone to be ticked off a list and be issued a piece of paper on which to vote. I will be pressing the government as to an explanation as to why it took so long and procedures must be put in place that this must never happen again.
Yesterday the Electoral Commission released a report about the fiasco and highlighted a number of key points:
- It highlighted the need to change the legislation with regards to the way polling stations operate; it concluded that the number of voters able to vote at each polling station needs to be scaled to the amount of staff and voting booths.
I have been calling for this be changed and am delighted we are finally making progress on this.
- It was in agreement with me about the need to review the number of polling stations to deal with the increased turnout.
- Interestingly, it noted that there were real delays caused by polling clerks having to explain to some voters why they could only vote in one election and not the other. I feel this shows the real need to cease joint elections to prevent this happening in future.
As a result of this report I have contacted Sir Howard Bernstein (Chief Executive of Manchester City Council) again to offer him further constructive suggestions about how to improve the situation in future.
The report from the Electoral Commission can be found here Interim-Report-Polling-Station-Queues-3.
Jenny Watson (Chair of the Electoral Commission) also wrote to me highlighting the findings of the report and suggesting further action, you can view this here Letter from Jenny Watson to John Leech MP
I will be addressing the situation in parliament and will keep you all informed with the latest progress.