By David Keane
AS THE CLOSEST fought election in years gets underway, over 200 voters have been turned away from Manchester Withington polling stations tonight.
Further confusion arose, as some polling stations allowed those already queuing before 10pm to vote, whilst others did not.
According to the UK Polling Report Manchester Withington is number 15 on the Liberal Democrat’s target list, after winning with only 1.4% of the vote above Labour in 2005.
Withington voter Ciaran McLoughlin said: “We’ve been waiting in the rain for hours and now we’re being turned away. It’s a disgrace.”
A spokesman for the returning officer for Manchester said: “The law states that the doors to polling stations must be closed at 10pm exactly, and no-one may be issued with a ballot paper after 10pm.”
But Withington is not alone, as voters have also been turned away from polling stations in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, and South Yorkshire.
In Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency the police were called after reports of people queuing at polling stations for three hours, only to be turned away.
Returning office for Sheffield, John Mothersole, said: “’We got this wrong and I would like to apologise.”
The Electoral Commission has launched an urgent inquiry into the problem, as reports emerge that some polling stations ran out of ballot papers.
Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman said the election result could be open to legal challenge if results are close.
Yet Chair of the Electoral Commission Jenny Watson said that the law clearly states that only those who had already been given their ballot papers before 10pm could vote past the cut-off.
She said: “Any polling station giving voters ballot papers after 10pm would be breaking the law.”