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Vote officers 'must learn from queue errors'

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Acting returning officers failed to meet standards for skills and knowledge in four places where queues developed outside general election polling stations.

That is among findings from the Electoral Commission’s review, (see file, right) of how well election officials met its performance standards last May.

Council chief executives usually hold the formal role of returning officer, with acting officers carrying out electoral administration.

Seven officers failed to meet the skills and knowledge standard, four of them in areas with queuing problems (Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle upon Tyne and Newcastle-under- Lyme), the commission said.

But it noted that voters attended some 40,000 polling booths on 6 May and problems arose at only 27 of them.

This though led to angry scenes as those still queuing at 10pm were in some cases barred from voting.

The commission said 95% of officers met or exceeded its standards for skills and knowledge, planning and training, while 94% did so for ‘integrity’ and 90% for ‘participation’.

Commission chief executive Peter Wardle said he had been encouraged by the overall performance by officers, but added: “It is essential returning officers learn from mistakes that were made at this year’s polls.”

Clear instructions and guidance would be issued ahead of next May’s simultaneous elections for the Scottish Parliament and councils, Welsh Assembly and councils, most councils in England and an expected referendum on the UK voting system.

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