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Ipswich may get new voting system

PUBLISHED: 17:00 06 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

GOVERNMENT ministers are to be asked to allow Ipswich to abandon traditional polling stations at next May's council elections.

The request will be made despite opposition claims that such a move could lead to electoral fraud and intimidation across the town.

GOVERNMENT ministers are to be asked to allow Ipswich to abandon traditional polling stations at next May's council elections.

The request will be made despite opposition claims that such a move could lead to electoral fraud and intimidation across the town.

The council is to ask permission for every voter in Ipswich to be sent ballot papers at home for them to return by post.

But council deputy leader David Ellesmere told yesterday's full meeting of the borough that there would be sites set up in every ward in the town where people could leave their ballot papers on the day of the election.

"In parts of the country where this was trailed in May last year, the number of votes went up dramatically," he said.

"The increase was from 33 per cent in some wards to 59 and 60pc in other parts of the country.

"In Ipswich the average turnout in that election was 26pc, and in some wards it was below 20pc. It is not good for democracy that more than 80pc of people don't vote."

But the move came under fire from the Conservative opposition.

Group leader Stephen Barker said people already had the option to ask for a postal vote.

He said that if the proposal was accepted it would remove the option for people to go to a polling station.

"We would be taking away their choice. The way to get more people to vote is to offer them more choice," he said.

His colleague Gordon Terry warned that by posting ballot papers to addresses across the town, it would increase the risk of fraud.

"What about places where mail is left in communal areas, like houses in multiple occupation or student digs?" he said.

Liberal Democrat group leader Inga Lockington said her party felt more research should be undertaken before universal postal voting was applied for – the Liberal Democrats abstained in the vote.

The government has invited local authorities to apply to take part in a pilot scheme for universal postal voting – but has indicated that approval will only be given if there is cross-party support for the application.

The applications have to be submitted by the end of the year, and the successful candidates are expected to be notified by the end of February, well in time for May's local elections.


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