Electoral Commission: Polling day ran ‘smoothly’ but ‘some’ could not vote

The Electoral Commission has insisted polling day “ran smoothly” despite acknowledging “some” people were unable to vote due to the late arrival of postal votes.

The body that oversees elections said there is “room to improve the experience for some” and that it will be carrying out research in the coming weeks, including into those who applied to vote by post.

It follows criticism from Conservatives Kemi Badenoch and Kevin Hollinrake over people not receiving their ballots.

Kevin Hollinrake walking down a street
Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake has said that missing postal votes will be ‘urgently’ investigated (James Manning/PA)

In a statement when the polls closed, the Electoral Commission said they will “recommend improvements to the systems where necessary”.

Asked for a number or estimate on how many had been unable to vote, the commission indicated it is “not possible to collect a specific figure”.

The commission also noted that while the overall campaign had been “robust and vibrant”, there was also “unacceptable abuse and intimidation of candidates”.

Vijay Rangarajan, commission chief executive, said: “Today, tens of millions of people exercised their democratic right and had their say at the ballot box.

“Overall, our initial assessment is that polling day ran smoothly and people were able to cast their votes securely. We continue to support administrators as they undertake counts tonight.

“Millions of people were able to have their say, but we know there is room to improve the experience for some.

“A record number of postal votes were successfully returned, but some couldn’t vote both in the UK and abroad because of the late arrival of postal votes. There was a robust and vibrant campaign, but unacceptable abuse and intimidation of candidates.

“We will collect evidence from people who participated in these elections as voters, candidates, campaigners and administrators, to better understand their experiences. We will recommend improvements to the systems where necessary.”

The commission said there had been “very high levels of public awareness” on new rules around voter ID and thanked electoral administrators across the country for “dedication and professionalism in delivering these well run polls”.

Earlier this week, Mr Hollinrake – postal affairs minister – was said to be “urgently” investigating a failure to get ballot packs to people in some constituencies in time for polling day.

On Thursday, Ms Badenoch attacked the local council in her North West Essex seat for having “potentially disenfranchised” thousands of postal voters who had not received their ballots.

The Cabinet minister said up to 2,600 voters were affected by Uttlesford District Council “forgetting” to send them their postal votes.

Writing on X on polling day, Ms Badenoch said: “Five years ago, all but four Conservatives on Uttlesford council were voted out. People wanted ‘Change’. Instead, they got ‘Change for the WORSE’, electing an independent residents group who ran a blame-the-Tories campaign.

“The community is now saddled with a council leadership unable to carry out basic functions competently…

“Now they’ve potentially disenfranchised up to 2,600 postal voters by FORGETTING to send them their ballot papers.”

On Thursday, the council said packs had been sent out by the end of last week and a majority of 2,688 postal votes had been successfully returned.

The exact number of ballots returned will be published by the council after the count in the interests of transparency, it said.

Kemi Badenoch on a purple lit stage wearing a yellow dress
Kemi Badenoch is seen as a frontrunner in a potential bid to replace Rishi Sunak as leader of the Conservative Party (Lucy North/PA)

The council’s chief executive, Peter Holt, had last week said he was “mortified” and apologised for the error.

He said the council had been delivering postal ballots by hand in a bid to resolve the matter, but warned a close result on election night could be challenged if a large proportion are not returned.

There is speculation this could thwart any bid by Ms Badenoch to stand in a Tory leadership contest.

If she wins her seat by a narrow margin, Labour could challenge the result and demand a re-run.

This could result in a by-election, with Ms Badenoch not considered an MP until its conclusion and therefore prevented from running in a Conservative Party leadership race.

Ms Badenoch is seen as a frontrunner to replace Rishi Sunak should he lead the Conservatives to defeat.

Having won a 27,594 majority in Saffron Walden in 2019, she is fighting for re-election in the redrawn North West Essex seat.