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Highland voters ‘frustrated and angry’ over ‘inability to vote’ after postal ballot delays


By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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Postal voting pack from the 2021 UK local elections. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.
Postal voting pack from the 2021 UK local elections. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

“Frustrated and angry” Highland citizens have spoken out about their “inability to vote” due to extreme delays in receiving their postal ballots, meaning they won’t have a say in the upcoming UK general election.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was previously criticised for calling the general election for July 4, when many schools in Scotland have begun their summer holidays. SNP First Minister John Swinney said that Sunak's choice of date showed "contempt" for Scotland.

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

READ MORE ON THE GENERAL ELECTION:

• All you need to know about the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency

• Candidates in Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire constituency take part in election hustings

• Polls paint a mixed picture for Highland seats – can we trust them?

However, many Highlanders haven’t received their postal vote, meaning they will not get the opportunity to have their say in the general election, as they leave for family holidays over the next few days.

Rona Mackay from the Black Isle said: “The postal vote issue is quite significant for us. We are heading off to Spain as a family on July 2 for a week. It was booked over year ago. As soon as the election was announced, I registered for a postal vote and my husband registered a couple days later. Last week his postal ballot arrived, but nothing has arrived for me.

“Our votes matter, and it's our right. I've been politically active since I was old enough to vote — I studied politics at university, I’ve worked in adult social care… so I feel strongly about rights and responsibilities. Being unable to vote is significant for me, as I've never missed an opportunity before.”

Suzanne Mattison from Inverness said: “The impact this will have on us is that we won’t get to vote… the bigger impact is if lots of us don’t get to vote, then our votes could have impacted the outcome of the election in this constituency. I’m frustrated and angry about it.”

When Brian Wares from Thurso registered for his postal vote, he was told that it would be sent out on June 19, however he was later told that he would instead receive it on June 29 — by which time he would be on holiday and therefore unable to have a say in the general election.

Brian said: “I’m sure I’m not alone in this situation, how many votes are going to be lost due to the votes not being sent out on time?”

Malcolm Burr, convener of the Electoral Management Board (EMB) for Scotland, said: “There have been many difficulties experienced with the delivery of postal votes at this election.

“Postal voting is now a major element of every election with over 25% of the electorate choosing to vote in this way. For this to be a viable option Returning Officers must rely on print suppliers and a predictable and reliable service from Royal Mail. 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.

“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.”

For any queries about postal votes, contact 0800 393 783 or ero@highland.gov.uk


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