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Postal Vote Return Tops 20 Percent

Almost 21 per cent of voters in South Tyneside have returned their ballot paper within the first three days of the start of the new all postal voting system.

Election officials have already processed 25,000 ballot papers returned since the ballot papers were issued last weekend.

Returning Officer, Chris Bradley, reports that the level of response has been very encouraging from all 20 wards being contested in the elections to South Tyneside Council.

All the incoming ballot papers are being sorted daily, and although pleased with the number of returns, Mr Bradley says that there has been a higher than expected number of mismatched returns.

The majority of mismatched returns have been where the voter has included the Declaration of Identity in the same envelope as the ballot paper.

The postal voting scheme is based on a secure double envelope system. Voters have to sign and return the Declaration of Identity and place it in a pre-paid return envelope with the ballot paper enclosed in separate voting envelope.

Mismatched votes where the Declaration of Identity is included are still valid and will be counted. Votes returned without the Declaration cannot be counted, but would be included if the voter returns the Declaration of Identity before the date of voting at 5.00pm on THURSDAY MAY 2ND.

Mr Bradley said: "It is possible that some voters may forget to include the Declaration. So long as they can return it by deadline it can be matched to their ballot paper."

All Declaration and Ballot papers have a unique number and bar code.

All valid votes are being securely stored in appropriate sealed ward ballot boxes, until Polling Day THURSDAY MAY 2ND.

The postal votes will then be electronically counted. The results will not be declared until after 9.00pm on May 2nd.

South Tyneside is one of only four Councils selected to run electronic counting with an all postal voting experiment designed to increase the number of people voting in elections.

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