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Chaos at polling stations will never happen again, say election watchdogs

Election watchdogs have vowed that the voting chaos which left hundreds of people queuing outside polling stations when ballot boxes closed will “never happen again”.

The Electoral Commission is carrying out an inquest into what happened — which has been roundly condemned by the leaders of the main parties — and has called on people affected to contact them.

High turnouts caused problems at polling stations in London, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, with some polling stations running out of ballot papers and others locking furious people outside.

There were angry scenes in Hackney, east London, where would-be voters staged a sit-in after they were told they could not vote, and in Nick Clegg's constituency of Sheffield Hallam students tried to prevent ballot boxes being taken to the count after they were turned away. Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission (EC), described the current voting system as “Victorian” and at breaking point.

She said: “Casting a vote on election day is one of the most important things we do in a democracy, and people will rightly be upset and angry if they were unable to do this. Whilst millions cast their vote without difficulties, we share the concern of all those that missed out.”

Human rights group Liberty said it was also looking into allegations that hundreds of potential voters were disenfranchised.

After results in 649 of the UK's 650 constituencies had been announced, national turnout stood at 65.1%, up from 61.4% in 2005.

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