Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Apathy Worries as Poll Deadline Looms

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Apathy Worries as Poll Deadline Looms

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Young

Voter apathy threatens Labour's big North East postal ballot experiment with just two days to go to the polling deadline.

Latest figures reveal that, up to yesterday, 498,159 postal votes had been returned across the North East for the local and European elections out of a total of 1.9 million.

This meant that nearly three out of four people had failed to vote. Party leaders are holding out hope for a late rush to the polls by the deadline of 10pm Thursday.

Today is the final day for posting votes to ensure they arrive on time. After that, people are advised to personally deliver their votes to their council.

Tories and Liberal Democrats say they warned an all-postal ballot involving 14 million people in four regions, including the North East, would lead to massive problems.

Nearly 600,000 ballot packs on Tyneside were delivered late and the opposition parties say the novelty of postal voting, trialled previously in some areas, is wearing off.

Labour insists response is up and claims the opposition parties' blocking tactics held up the printing of ballot forms, while their insistence that declarations of identity had to be witnessed meant voting was more complex.

Liberal Democrat European candidate Fiona Hall said: "There is still be time to post back ballot papers today, and even on Wednesday at a pinch. On Thursday, people can hand in their ballot papers until 10pm."

Ged Fitzgerald, Sunderland City Council chief executive, regional returning officer for the European elections, said the response of 26.2% so far is ahead of the 19.6% recorded last time, in 1999, when people voted by traditional methods.

By yesterday 43,500 votes had been received in Newcastle, which is 24.4% ( still far short of last year's response of nearly 50% during the city's first all-postal pilot scheme. …

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