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Emergency proxy votes offered amid Barnet Council poll blunder

Published 05/05/2016

Sophie Walker, the Women's Equality Party mayoral candidate, has registered a complaint with the council
Sophie Walker, the Women's Equality Party mayoral candidate, has registered a complaint with the council
Voters took to Twitter to denounce the situation

Emergency proxy votes are being offered to residents in north London after council bungling meant many voters were turned away from the ballot box.

Names were missing from polling lists across Barnet and residents, including the Chief Rabbi, who attempted to cast their vote were stopped.

The council has apologised and said all the updated electoral registers are now in place and people can vote as normal.

A Barnet Council spokesman said: "Anyone who attended a polling station in Barnet this morning, and was turned away and therefore could not vote, and was unable to return due to work reasons, may be able to use an emergency proxy vote.

"They will need to complete an application form on our website (www.barnet.gov.uk) and return it by 5pm today."

Barnet Council confirmed that all of its 155 polling stations had been affected by the blunder.

It was unable to say how many of the 236,196 registered voters had been turned away.

Candidates and voters can challenge the result of the elections in London by lodging a petition with the Royal Courts of Justice.

Grounds for the appeal include claiming the successful candidate was not duly elected, or the election was invalidated by corrupt or illegal practices.

Sophie Walker, the Women's Equality Party mayoral candidate, has registered a complaint with the council, along with the London Assembly.

She told the Press Association: "I am very disappointed. I have spent my morning responding to messages from people upset that they could not vote.

"Women first got the vote 100 years ago and there are women today who have been unable to vote."

Ms Walker added: "These are vital votes, particularly for smaller parties.

"We will be pursuing a complaint."

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and his wife Valerie were among those to be turned away from their polling station.

He is said to be "disappointed" as he will be unable to vote later because he is flying to Amsterdam for a visit to the Jewish Community Centre.

Earlier this week he said Labour had a ''severe'' problem with anti-Semitism and warned that it would get worse if the party's inquiry into the issue was used as a ''sticking plaster'' to placate voters.

Guy Fryer, head of stage at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, was missing from the list but managed to vote after "standing his ground" at a polling station in Strawberry Vale.

He said: "How can we have a fair vote if not everyone has voted?

"An apology is really not good enough.

"It's not a bring-and-buy sale. It really, really matters."

Journalist Jennifer Lipman, who attempted to vote at Hoop Lane polling station, said the problem was "disastrous".

"We had our ballot papers and they checked their lists, but we were not on there," she said.

"They advised us to call the helpline but had no further information.

"It's incredibly frustrating because, even if they sort the problem, there will be plenty of people who are unable to vote later in the day, not to mention the likelihood of large queues building up.

"I firmly believe in the right to vote so I am upset to seemingly be denied it."

Black cab driver Adam Barnett described the problem as "a farce", saying he would have to go back a third time in one day to be able to cast his vote for Mayor.

The 46-year-old said he was first turned away at 7am from a polling station in Bells Hill, and told how he failed in his second attempt to vote more than three hours later.

He said: "I was one of a number of people who had turned up first thing and couldn't vote at 7am.

"They still hadn't got the updated list when I went back a second time after 10am. It's just a farce."

Zac Goldsmith's team said there had "clearly been a major problem" and appealed to voters turned away from polling stations to return later.

Returning officer Andrew Travers said they would fully investigate the cause of the problems with the electoral registration lists.

"Taking part in the democratic process is a fundamental right for our residents and the main focus this morning was to resolve the situation as soon as possible," he said in a statement.

"I would like to apologise to everyone who experienced problems with voting in Barnet today."

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