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Return to sender: Royal Mail hits back over postal vote delay

A British Royal Mail logo is seen behind a postal worker walking at a delivery office in London, Monday, Oct. 19, 2009.
A British Royal Mail logo is seen behind a postal worker walking at a delivery office in London, Monday, Oct. 19, 2009. Copyright AKIRA SUEMORI/AP2009
Copyright AKIRA SUEMORI/AP2009
By Indrabati Lahiri
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Royal Mail comes in for criticism over delays in sending out ballot papers for UK postal voters. It says the "surprise" timing of the election is to blame.


On the last full day of canvassing ahead of the UK polling day on Thursday 4 July, some voters are still waiting for Royal Mail to deliver their postal voting cards. 

The company has rejected criticism of what some see as tardiness and says the "surprise" date of the election is to blame for the hold up in deliveries. Voters remain sceptical, pointing out this particular election campaign has been going on for six weeks, double the minimum time required of three weeks. 

A Royal Mail spokesman was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: "We have no backlog of postal votes and, whilst we are not complacent, we remain confident that postal votes handed to us on time will be delivered prior to polling day. 

"Where specific concerns have been raised, we have investigated and confirmed ballot packs are being delivered as soon as they arrive in our network. 

"We would welcome a review into the timetable for future elections with all stakeholders to ensure that the system for printing and administering postal votes before they are handed to Royal Mail works as smoothly as possible." 

In total, more than 90 constituencies around the country are still waiting for some ballots to arrive. 

Many postal voters are serving in the Armed Services and use a postal vote because they live away from the area where they would usually vote. One couple have been using their postal vote option for more than 20 years, while the husband was in the Army. They continued to use the after his retirement and this is the first time they have been worried they would miss out on the chance to vote.

His wife told Euronews: "I realised there was a problem when our ballot papers didn't arrive. We've always had it within two weeks of an election, but, this time, we've been waiting and waiting. It finally arrived yesterday (Monday) and we're assured that, if we post it now, it will get to the local authority in time for Thursday's vote. 

"However, those of us who use Royal Mail are sceptical that their first-class postal system is that good. It is a genuine disgrace. It's making a mockery of the democratic process and nobody's being held to account."

More postal voters strain delivery services

Royal Mail says more people have unexpectedly chosen to vote by post for this election; it anticipates a rise of some 20% since the last election held in 2019.

It argues this has added further pressure to postal services, and says it, too, received some papers late, leaving only a few days for delivery to voters. 

The postal delivery service has asked for the timeline of future elections to be reviewed, in order to ensure that the postal voting system can function as efficiently as possible. 

Postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake is reported to be investigating the delays urgently, already having slammed Royal Mail for not hiring enough people to deal with the increased pressure on postal services during this critical time for the UK.

The delay means some voters may be deprived of the chance to vote.

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