Postal delays leave Scottish holidaymakers unable to vote

Person posting postal vote
[Getty Images]

There are calls for a review of the postal voting system across Scotland after voters reported not receiving their ballots just one week before polling day.

The Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB) said there have been "many difficulties experienced with the delivery of postal votes" across the country.

BBC Scotland has spoken to a number of people who are concerned they have not received their postal vote - including people going on holiday who will not be home until after the election.

Royal Mail said it had investigated concerns over the delivery of postal votes in some areas but had found no backlogs in any of its offices in Scotland.

The EMB co-ordinates and supports the work of returning officers and other local authority officials in the running of council, Scottish and UK elections.

EMB Scotland convenor Malcolm Burr said electoral returning officers need reliable print supplies and a "predictable and reliable" service from the Royal Mail in order for postal voting to be a "viable option"

He said: "There have been and remain issues with both suppliers and with Royal Mail across Scotland which the electoral community are dealing with as best we can.

"It should be noted that the legal and logistical timetable for this election is very tight, exacerbated in Scotland by the holiday period commencing in many areas at the end of this week."

Mr Burr said over 25% of voters now choose to vote via post.

"The EMB believes that there is a need for a major review of capacity and systems after the Election. That view is shared across the electoral community.

"We are very much aware that some electors remain without a postal ballot at this point and we are working with returning officers, suppliers and Royal Mail to expedite delivery as quickly as possible," he said.

The UK deadline to apply for a postal vote was 19 June. Anyone who is a long-term postal voter or who applied before 7 June ought to have received their voting pack last week.

Others who applied after this date could expect to be part of a second dispatch of forms.

However, this has not been widely advertised and has caused confusion to some voters who have seen friends or family with ballot papers already.

Voting packs are all due to arrive by Saturday but with the school holidays now underway in parts of Scotland some families could be out of the country by then.

The Hellis family of four at Glasgow Airport
Kristian Hellis didn't receive his voting pack in time, but wife Hannah did [BBC]

Hannah Hellis from Rutherglen received her postal vote before flying off for a family holiday but her husband Kristian did not.

Kristian told BBC Scotland news he registered to vote about two weeks ago and was told his paperwork would arrive within a week.

But as the family flew off to Italy for two-and-a-half weeks on Thursday, the ballot had still not arrived.

"It’s disappointing to be missing out, especially at this election," he said.

"I think announcing the election at the start of the Scottish school holidays disadvantages a lot of people here and it’s a shame because this feels like a big election with everything that’s going on.

"I’ve got a funny feeling my voting paperwork will arrive today after I’ve left."

Karry Bicket and her daughter at Glasgow Airport
Karry Bicket and her daughter are going to the Dominican Republic [BBC]

Karry Bicket from Troon said she is "disappointed" that she will miss the chance to vote due to her pack not arriving before her holiday.

"We’ve received nothing, my husband’s not received his either.

"I did think that was odd given it’s a week today but we’ve not received anything so we can’t vote," she said.

She flew to the Dominican Republic on Thursday, and will arrive back in Scotland next Friday, after the polls close.

Other said they had no issues, with voting packs arriving over the last few days.

Lisa McColligan from Gartcosh in North Lanarkshire said she had no problems registering to use a postal vote for the first time.

"Ours came through pretty much straight away. We were quite surprised because we were worried because of when the election was announced, we knew we didn’t have a lot of time," she said on her way to Florida for a family wedding.

"We did it differently this time because we knew we’d be out of the country. We registered a few weeks ago, made sure we had our postal vote, so it’s all done."

Lisa McColligan from Gartcosh
Lisa McColligan had 'no problems' receiving her ballot [BBC]

Royal Mail said it had investigated concerns over the delivery of postal votes in some areas but had found no issues with backlogs.

A spokesperson said: "We understand there have been issues associated with the printing of ballot packs that has delayed them being handed over to us for delivery.

"We are delivering ballot packs as soon as they arrive in our network. We are working with all local authorities to get postal votes to voters as quickly as possible.”

The Electoral Commission said local authorities were working to get ballot forms out to postal voters "as quickly as possible".

A spokesperson said: “Anyone who applied before the deadline on Wednesday 19 June and had their application approved should soon receive their ballot pack through the post.

"Some people may have received these already."

'Serious concern'

On the campaign trail in Edinburgh, First Minister John Swinney said he was concerned about the reports and said the issue was “right at the door” of Prime Minster Rishi Sunak for calling an election during the Scottish school holidays.

In East Lothian, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross told BBC Scotland News said he had been told on doorsteps that people were still waiting to receive their postal ballots and that it was of “serious concern”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, campaigning in Kirkcaldy, said it was “deeply frustrating” for those affected and called for the electoral authorities and the Royal Mail “get this sorted ASAP”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Wendy Chamberlain said several people had brought up the issue with her while she had been campaigning, adding: “It does appear that some people will miss out on voting as a result.”