Over 75 University of Southampton Students Turned Away From Polling Stations

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Wessex Scene have received reports that over 75 local students have been turned away from voting due to an alleged ‘administrative error’. 

In a statement released by SUSU, it was reported that a large number of University of Southampton students have been turned away from their registered polling station, with staff telling them that they’re not on the station’s list despite them being registered to vote.

One such student was VP Education & Democracy, Jo Lisney, whose role as a Sabbatical Officer forms part of a placement year in a sandwich course. After being turned away by her polling station at Southampton Test, she said this to SUSU:

It was a shock this morning when I went to vote and was told I couldn’t. I had my polling card come through so I knew I could, but the people at the station showed me the list and it said ‘details deleted’. After this I called the Electoral Commission and they confirmed I can vote and told me to go back with my polling card but if it doesn’t work, call them again.

Union President Emily Harrison, who penned the statement as a SUSU spokesperson, said that she was ‘deeply concerned’ by the news, as she asserts that ‘everyone who is able should be allowed to exercise their democratic right to vote’.

She went on to say:

Despite there being a relatively short turnaround for this election, there has been over 2 weeks since the registration deadline for the Electoral Register to update the information given to polling stations. We therefore find it unacceptable that the records haven’t been updated adequately which has put unnecessary barriers in place to voters. This is particularly distressing to first-time voters, including many of our students.

Another University of Southampton student, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported a similar issue when attempting to vote in Southampton earlier today. They claim that they were almost denied a vote due to not bringing their polling card:

I arrived at my polling station (Hollybrook Junior School) and was greeted by some Middle Aged women who were running the ballot. Before anything they asked where my polling card was to which I replied “I didn’t bring it”. They replied with a “hmm” and said that “ideally we need it”. I frowned and politely followed with “I know that I don’t need my polling card but I do have my ID if that helps?” And the woman said that it was fine and instead just simply asked me for my address. She conveniently couldn’t find it on the sheet but fortunately, I saw my name and pointed out it was several up from the bottom. She scored through my name as the other person took note and she simply handed my ballot paper and said nothing more!

Contrary to this student’s experience, the official Government website lists the following guidance online about polling cards and voting in person:

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland you do not need to bring any identification to vote.

You will need to show photo ID to vote in Northern Ireland (your passport, driving license, Electoral Identity Card or certain kinds of Translink Smartpass).

You do not have to take your poll card with you.

This trend, however, is unfortunately not unique to Southampton, with young people being turned away from polling stations all over the country. The Liverpool Echo is reporting a similar trend, with them claiming that voters all over Liverpool have gotten in touch to report issues with voting.

Teenager Ellis Bennet, 18, shared his experience with the Liverpool Echo; reporting an issue that mirrors that of Jo and the countless students in Southampton who were turned away today. He said:

I turned up today ready to vote but when I gave my name they said I wasn’t on the list. They put me on to someone at the council who said I wasn’t the first person to complain about this – I definitely registered weeks ago. When I registered they asked me for photo ID and everything and I gave it – I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be registered.I am fuming, this election is the biggest issue facing the country and we need young people to get out and vote.

Other voters have taken to Twitter to report their frustrations, which suggests that this is by no means an isolated issue:

Maddy from Peckham has reported that she’s been crossed off the list:

Meanwhile, Nimah, a student based in Manchester, was told that she is not allowed to vote despite registering at both her home and University address and having a seemingly valid polling card:

 

There is no clear reason why these administrative errors are occurring, although it has been reported that a lot of young people received their polling cards late. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that those on the ground at polling stations have been given non-up-to-date lists, which may well be due to late voter registration and a short turnaround time.

Other social media users are suggesting that this is ‘voter suppression’, and that polling stations are breaking the law by preventing people from voting:

Wessex Scene contacted the Electoral Commission about the Southampton students who were turned away, and were told this in response:

We’ve been in touch with the local authority [Southsampton] who have had no contact from anyone saying that they’ve been turned away from a polling station. If specific details can be provided as to which electors and/or polling station(s) this has affected, Southampton have said they will be more than happy to look into it.

This is despite Jo, a Southampton voter, saying in her statement to SUSU (above) that she had a phone conversation with the Electoral Commission regarding her difficulties voting.

Polling stations are open until 10pm tonight. For any students who haven’t cast their vote yet, SUSU is recommending that students bring their polling card and call the Southampton Electoral Register on 023 8083 2245 if they have any issues.

‘Although you should not need to take your polling card with you to vote, we advise you do on this occasion’, says Harrison.

SUSU have asserted that after the election, they will be working with the Public Engagement Team from the University to take this issue up with the Electoral Commission.

Wessex Scene will update this article as and when we hear more.

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Wessex Scene Editor // meme queen // fan of chocolate digestives // @colombochar on Twitter.

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