Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Postal Vote Chaos ‘Emblematic of Past 14 Years’ of Government, Says Brit Who Has Lost their Vote Due to Delays 

One disenfranchised voter told Byline Times that it represented the ‘utter clusterf**k that is the sum of 14 years’ of Conservative rule

Thousands of people have reported delays receiving their postal ballots, with the problem particularly acute for some overseas. Photo: Paul Hennell/Alamy

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

British citizens living abroad have hit out at the Government after they were “effectively disenfranchised” due to postal voting chaos during this election. 

Voters from Dublin to Hong Kong have reported not receiving their ballots in time, while others have had their postal votes lost in the mail or delayed by bureaucratic inefficiencies. 

The scandal has sparked accusations of Government incompetence, with one voter who has lost out blaming “years of cuts and privatisation” to councils and Royal Mail as factors.

Miranda Fay Thomas, a British academic living in Dublin, said: “My ballot arrived [on Tuesday]. I posted it back the same day but there’s no way in hell, with the postal delays between EU and non-EU countries, that it will arrive in time to be counted. I’m livid.

“I think the whole situation is emblematic of the utter clusterf**k that is the sum of 14 years of Tory rule. I don’t necessarily think there’s any one factor, I think there are several, including: cuts to local Government, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, and Brexit-induced delays for international post.

Miranda Fay Thomas’ postal ballot only arrived in Ireland on Tuesday

“The Tories wanted us to believe in trickle-down economics… What they’ve actually achieved is trickle-down incompetence: services have been cut and cut until they are no longer fit for service.

“I think the growing scandal over postal votes is indicative of this: a country that is barely able to function through Government ineptitude and Conservative disdain for the people they were elected to serve.”

Alice Woodhouse, a British former journalist living in Hong Kong, also says she will be effectively denied a vote due to the postal delays. She told Byline Times: “I’ve lived overseas for 10 years and remember I got my 2019 ballot at least two weeks before the date, as I was flying back to the UK and brought a colleague’s with me as well to post in the UK. 

“I haven’t had this issue before. It’s ridiculous that just after they let people who’ve lived outside the UK for more than 15 years vote, very few of us overseas can exercise this right. 

Byline Times needs your help to investigate disinformation and electoral exclusion as we head towards the 2024 General Election.

We’re asking for your help to keep track of dodgy campaigning this election, so if you spot anything that bears investigation, please email us at votewatch24@bylinetimes.com.

“I checked my mailbox on my way home and it’s not there tonight. The constituency where I vote is a safe Labour one, so the box I put a cross in doesn’t make much of a difference, but I still value my right to vote.”

Andrew Hopper, communications and social media officer for Labour International, the Labour Party’s body for members living abroad, said issues with postal votes overseas is “not new” – but this time the situation was different.

“I’ve been getting many reports of people in France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany who did not receive their ballot until it was too late to return them, if at all,” he told this newspaper. “All of these voters registered well in advance.

“When voters did not have a suitable proxy in their registered constituency (not uncommon given that some have been away for decades, and that the ballot needs to be cast in the ‘correct’ polling station), I have been pointing them to the (not widely known) possibility of a postal proxy. This method should be safer than a postal vote from overseas, but there have been problems here too.”

He said getting a proxy vote overseas is “needlessly complicated” to set up.

Don’t miss a story

“After the voter applies for a proxy vote, the proxy then needs to send a postal proxy request form to the Electoral Registration Officer of the local authority that the overseas voter is registered in. Each local authority uses a different form, so it must be requested first,” he told Byline Times. “The quality of these forms can vary – I have seen examples that are very confusingly formatted, or which even ask for unnecessary information. 

“I have also encountered several cases where the request form was processed before the initial proxy application (despite being sent after), creating confusion, as well as causing unnecessary proxy voting cards to be sent out. The whole process requires a lot of emails back and forth – there are multiple points where error and misunderstanding can creep in.”

Hopper added: “Even worse is the fact that some postal proxy ballots have not been sent to the proxy’s UK address in time. Given that overseas voters use this method on the understanding that postal voting within the UK should be safer, this is ironic, and deeply frustrating.”

He believes local Electoral Registration Officers and their staff are “massively overburdened”. 

Demand for Voting Overhaul as One in Six Commons Seats ‘Haven’t Changed Hands for a Century’

Over eight million voters live in ‘one-party fiefdoms’ as over 100 parliamentary seats have been held by one party for a century or more

“Some applications have been dealt with very slowly,” he said. “There have also been serious mistakes: in one case, a volunteer postal proxy discovered that they were registered as a proxy for someone that they didn’t even know. This might not have come to light if it were not for the fact that they were attempting to proxy for four Labour International members (the maximum number of proxy votes allowed).” 

Voting as a proxy for more than four other people would likely constitute a criminal offence. 

On X (formerly Twitter), former MSP Andy Wightman in Scotland said that his mother in Skye is housebound and had “not received her postal ballot despite being told that it will be sent around 21 June”. He added: “Luckily I am with her and able to go to the council office today. What a shame.” 

Rachel Walkley on Threads added: “My husband requested a postal vote two weeks before we went on holiday. Papers never came. Too late for him. Now [we’re] on holiday abroad.”

Politico reports that the Royal Mail and Electoral Commission has denied anything had gone wrong on its side. 

A Royal Mail spokesperson insisted that there was “no backlog,” while Electoral Commission chief executive Vijay Rangarajan told the BBC on Tuesday that there were no “major, systemic problems.” However, he admitted that the system was “creaking” due to the volume of postal votes and “the timescale for doing a snap election so soon after May,” Politico reported. 

Postal votes are expected to make up a quarter of all ballots this year – a sharp rise on 2% 20 years or so ago. 

EXCLUSIVE

Fears of Mass Exclusion of Young Voters as Poll Reveals Numbers of 18-24 Year Olds Who Don’t Know About New Photo ID Rules

Young people, those with few qualifications, and voters in Scotland are least aware of new voter ID rules

An Electoral Commission spokesperson told Byline Times: ““If a voter hasn’t received their postal ballot pack, they can request a replacement postal ballot pack in person from their local authority. They can do this up to 5pm on polling day. They will need to take a photo ID. 

“Relevant contact details for a voter’s local election team can be found by entering their post code on our website.”

Unknown to many voters is the fact that emergency proxy votes are only available for medical emergencies, if someone is away for work, or their photo ID is lost or stolen.

Voters can hand in a maximum of five postal ballots (as well as their own) in a polling station on Thursday, but are required to complete a form at the polling station when doing so. That is, of course, of little use to most overseas voters at this stage.

Subscribers Get More from JOSIAH

Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

So for more from him…


Written by

This article was filed under
, , ,