Polling station confusion caused voter disruption in Doncaster

MP Ed Miliband and his wife Justine arrive to cast their votes at Sutton village hall in Doncaster.
MP Ed Miliband and his wife Justine arrive to cast their votes at Sutton village hall in Doncaster.

Council bosses in Doncaster have admitted confusion over polling stations led to a deluge of calls from worried voters.

A report before councillors today describes how changing polling sites this year led to confusion and a ‘high level of calls’ to the elections office asking where people should be voting.

The report to the Elections and Democratic Structures Committee says: “The number of calls generated by this issue did cause some disruption.”

The confusion followed a statutory review of polling places and stations earlier this year.

It resulted in an increase in the number of stations in Doncaster borough, from the 158 used for the police and crime commissioner by-election in October, to 173.

The report says feedback from station inspectors will be assessed and used to make any changes required for future elections.

It also recommends the council looks at alternatives to the eight mobile polling stations currently being used and that officers continue to look at ways of avoiding closing schools on polling days wherever possible.

The report says: “If a station had changed, then this was highlighted on the polling card. However, there was still some confusion and further publicity may be required.

“We should also look to build a facility within the council’s website which will allow the electorate to identify their polling station by typing in their postcode.

“We also need to explore what information we can give to station staff in order that they can quickly direct a person to the correct station.”

Voter Jacky Oruc claimed the wrong postcode had been put on her polling card – and no trace was available of it on internet-based maps.

She complained the Maple Grove Communal Hall polling station, in Armthorpe, was nearly impossible to find without previous local knowledge.

Jacky, of Armthorpe, said she spent hours poring over maps on the internet and was still unable to find it.

Roger Harvey, council assistant director of legal and democratic services, defended the authority’s work on the day of the elections – Thursday, May 7.

He said: “After the planning and delivery of such an important event, it is always good practice to reflect afterwards and consider what went well and what can be improved upon for the future.

“Due to some ward boundary changes, a very small group of people visited the wrong polling station.

“This was quickly rectified and they were pointed in the right direction to have their opportunity to vote.

“Overall, the elections were successfully delivered given that this was the largest combination of polls since 1979.”

Councillors were due to discuss the latest report at a meeting at the Civic Buildings, on Waterdale, this morning (Tuesday July 7).