Extra polling stations to avoid further election problems

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THE number of polling stations in Sheffield is being increased by 25 to ensure there is no repeat of the crisis at last year’s General Election where hundreds of people were unable to vote.

Sheffield Council has been recommended to approve the move at its meeting on Wednesday.

It will mean 204 polling stations at May’s combined local elections and referendum on the Alternative Vote system, compared with 179 last year.

Lack of capacity led to huge queues building up at polling stations in the city, especially Ranmoor and Woodseats with several hundred people unable to cast their votes by the 10pm deadline.

Sheffield’s returning officer and council chief executive John Mothersole forfeited his £20,000 fee for the election due to the fiasco - and pledged not to let it happen again.

A report into the problems by the Electoral Commission, which also investigated similar problems in a number of other parts of the country, recommended changes should be made to increase capacity and ensure polling stations work more smoothly.

John Tomlinson, of Sheffield Council’s electoral services department, said: “The chair of the Electoral Commission has instructed all counting officers that there can be no more than 2,500 electors allocated to use a polling station.”

The council’s proposals, necessary to comply with the commission’s directive, involve changes to polling districts - the streets within each ward allocated to different polling stations.

It means some voters going to a different polling station from previously. Ward boundaries would be unchanged.

Mr Tomlinson said four polling stations would still serve “slightly” more than 2,500 people but would have extra staff and regular monitoring from bosses.

After the election, a full evaluation process is to take place about the new polling districts.