Sunak not concerned postal ballots delay may leave some voters disenfranchised

Rishi Sunak is not concerned that some people could be disenfranchised by delays to receiving their postal votes ahead of polling day, Downing Street has said.

The Government is aware of some issues around the printing and delivery of postal ballot packs in some local areas and is working to help resolve them, according to No 10.

It comes after Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney warned that some Scots could be “disenfranchised” if their postal votes cannot be filled out and returned on time.

Voters north of the border reported still not having received their ballots with days to go until July 4, with some now overseas.

Some 2,600 postal votes were also reportedly sent out late in Essex’s Uttlesford District Council, whose chief executive apologised for the delay caused by “human error”.

The Electoral Commission said it will look into the administration of postal voting after this election, while the Local Government Association called for a review of the already “overburdened” system put under extra pressure by an “unprecedented increase” in people voting by post.

Asked whether the Prime Minister shared Mr Swinney’s concerns, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters on Monday: “No.

“We are aware of some concerns around the printing and delivery of postal ballot packs in some local areas.

“We’re working closely with the Electoral Commission, returning officers, Royal Mail and the print suppliers to support the resolution of these issues.

“We understand that the Royal Mail will also be conducting sweeps of their delivery system on polling day to make sure that any ballot packs still in the postal system are identified and passed to returning officers ahead of polls closing.

Rishi Sunak on the General Election campaign trail
Rishi Sunak is not concerned voters may be left disenfranchised by postal ballot delays (James Manning/PA)

“And anyone who hasn’t received their postal ballot yet may want to contact their returning officer or arrange for it to be reissued, or to arrange for an alternative avenue to cast their ballot.”

Mr Swinney on Sunday said there had been “significant reports of people who were trying to vote by post who had applied properly for a postal vote before the deadline of June 19”.

He also said there had been “no thought given to summer school holidays” in Scotland when Mr Sunak called the election.

“Those postal ballots have not arrived with people and some of them have now left the country, and they have been disenfranchised because of the timing of the election, which is something I deeply regret,” he told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News.

The Electoral Commission was not able to share information about which areas have been affected.

A spokesperson for the Commission said: “Tens of thousands of postal votes were delivered over the weekend. We know local authorities and Royal Mail are working to get the final ones out as soon as possible.

“As is the case at all elections, given the electoral timetable, there is a short window of time for administrators to prepare and dispatch postal votes.

“Anyone who hasn’t yet received their postal ballot pack should request a replacement from their local authority. Voters have the option to hand their postal pack to their polling station on polling day if they are concerned about posting it.

“They can also ask someone to hand their ballot pack in on their behalf. Voters can hand in a maximum of five postal ballots in addition to their own, and will be required to complete a form at the polling station when doing so.

“We recognise the pressures on the postal voting system due to the holiday season. We are continuing to provide advice and guidance to electoral services teams to support them with the postal voting process.

“Following the election, we will undertake research with voters and electoral administrators to understand their experiences at this poll. The administration of postal voting is one of the areas we will look at.”

According to the regulator, a voter can only apply for an emergency proxy if something unexpected prevents them from voting, such as a medical emergency, being away for work, and a lost or stolen voter ID.

Local councils are responsible for sending postal ballot forms to voters.

Completed postal votes must have reached councils by 10pm on polling day.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Councils and electoral staff across the country have been doing their utmost to ensure the smooth running of this election and that people can vote.

“People voting by post are expected to have increased 20% since the 2019 general elections, with more than 1.3 million postal vote applications made between May 22 and June 19. This unprecedented increase adds more pressure to an already complex process and overburdened system.

“We are aware of reports of incidents where delays have happened. The postal vote system could benefit from review and more could be done to support Royal Mail and printers to be ready to deliver elections.”