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ELECTIONS 2004: BRICKBATS AND BOUQUETS FOR POSTAL BALLOTS

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Voters in four regions - the east Midlands, the north-east, the north-west ...
Voters in four regions - the east Midlands, the north-east, the north-west

and Yorkshire & Humberside - will get their postal ballot papers this week

for the local and European elections, BBC Radio Four's Today programme

reported this morning.

But MPs are not convinced the postal ballots will be secure, Today reported.

Voters will need the signature of a witness to vouch for their identity.

Labour MP Andrew Bennett told Today: 'It's crazy. It means that someone who

lives alone has to find someone else to witness their returning of the

ballot paper. That can be a thing that people don't get round to doing.'

Mr Bennet did not believe witness statements would not prevent electoral

fraud. 'There is no way that the town hall can actually check up whether

that witness statement ... has been forged,' he said.

At Bolton MBC, which has piloted postal ballots, Des Grogan, deputy

returning officer, said the council had required people to sign a separate

form confirming their identity, but many failed to do so.

'We received 90,000 votes, we ruled out just over 10,000,' he said. 'People

didn't actually understand the instructions and assumed that they didn't

have to sign for anything because they'd never signed for anything at the

polling stations.'

But Christopher Leslie, minister at the Department for Constitutional

Affairs, told Today that in the 100 or so all-postal ballots carried out in

previous years, no allegations of fraud had been proved. Postal ballots were

likely to be more convenient and encourage greater participation in the

elections, he said.

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