Surge in demand leads to delay for postal voters

Nick Clegg MP in Selkirk Market Square ahead of next Thursday's referendum.
Nick Clegg MP in Selkirk Market Square ahead of next Thursday's referendum.

Massive demand for referendum postal votes has seen a delay that may well cost some Borderers the chance to take part in the historic ballot.

In a statement this week, Scottish Borders Council said the number of postal vote applications, especially those arriving close to the deadline for applying, had surged to what it termed’ “unprecedented” levels.

An SBC spokesperson explained: “The external printing company used by SBC and a number of other councils faced a very slight delay in getting this latest batch of postal vote ballot papers out due to this high demand, but they started to arrive on Tuesday.

“Counting Officers across Scotland were informed of this delay last week, but by that time it was not possible to contact electors in the Borders who could be affected.”

SBC was responding after Galashiels resident Keith McCarter vented his anger that, despite receiving his letter confirming his registration as an absent voter on August 21, his postal ballot did not arrive by the official September 8 date – Monday of this week.

Due to travel arrangements to leave for Greece on Tuesday, it meant he will now lose out on his chance to vote in next week’s independence referendum.

“I phoned the council on Monday to alert them to this problem. Apparently, I could have authorised a proxy to vote in my stead, but the deadline for this had passed before I discovered I was going to need to do that when my postal vote did not arrive in time before leaving for Greece,” said a furious Mr McCarter.

“If the result of the ballot is as close as people are predicting, it might be just a handful of missing votes like mine that could swing it either way,” added Mr McCarter.

SBC says it has sympathy for Mr McCarter’s predicament but there is nothing it can do because of electoral rules.

“While we fully expect that the postal voters affected by this delay will still receive their ballot papers in plenty of time, we can understand Mr McCarter’s frustration if he didn’t receive his papers before leaving for holiday,” a spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, there is nothing within the legislation that can change the situation.”

A total of 14,628 postal votes have been issued in the area for the referendum, with more than 2,500 postal voters added to the electoral register since August 11.