Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Boxing Clever as Wait Goes On

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Boxing Clever as Wait Goes On

Article excerpt

Byline: By Ross Smith

Race against time for postal ballots

Council bosses are dusting down old-style ballot boxes as the North-East races against time to prevent its pilot postal vote being rendered illegal.

Hundreds of thousands of voting forms for the June 10 local expected to be delivered this week have been held up by a series of printing problems.

The Tories warned last night that the entire vote could be illegal if the papers are not ready for Royal Mail to deliver by the Government's Tuesday deadline.

And one North-East authority yesterday announced it will place ballot boxes in every library as an emergency contingency measure.

The North-East is one of four regions using a pilot all-postal vote for the local and European elections.

Gateshead Council chief executive and chief returning officer Roger Kelly confirmed most voters in the town will not receive their forms for the local and European elections until Wednesday ( a week behind the expected delivery date.

He blamed the problems on the managing director of the printing firm Gateshead appointed going off work with a "stress-related illness".

But Jon Sanders, of Hertfordshire-based Document Technology Limited, strongly denied that, saying the reason for the problem was the tight timescale his firm had to complete the job.

Gateshead has now employed Electoral Reform Services ( the commercial arm of the Electoral Reform Society ( to finish printing the 146,000 papers.

Mr Kelly said: "Because of the delay in sending out the ballot packs, we have decided to use the libraries in the borough as contingency delivery points.

"If they wish, electors will be able to put completed papers in ballot boxes in any library during normal opening hours."

He said he would consider extending the opening hours on June 10, the final day of polling, to 10pm. …

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