Friday, 27 December 2013

No change to Polling Places for referendum

Polling arrangements that caused chaos at last year’s local government election are to remain in place for next September’s crucial referendum on independence.

Councillors last week backed the proposal from Ms Elma Murray, Chief Executive of North Ayrshire Council and the district’s Electoral Returning Officer. 

Despite concerns being raised over the use of Ardrossan’s St Peter’s Primary School as a Polling Place, councillors decided only to note the feedback received from respondents to a Council survey on the matter, and to “instruct the Chief Executive to look into the issues raised and come back with proposals following the 2014 Referendum”.

Ardrossan SNP councillor Tony Gurney and the Three Towns Disability Forum responded to the Council survey, raising concerns about the suitability of St Peter’s Primary, but a report for last week’s meeting of North Ayrshire Council, compiled by Elma Murray, indicated “No complaints have been received directly from voters in respect of the use of St Peter’s.”

An earlier report from Ms Murray, dated June 2012, reviewed the previous month’s local government election and acknowledged there had been problems at Polling Places in Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.  At that time, the Chief Executive vowed “lessons learned will be taken forward to future electoral events.”

In May 2012 the3towns reported some of the concerns raised by members of the public regarding polling arrangements that will now remain in place for the referendum on Scotland’s future.  Many Ardrossan residents found themselves being told to vote at St Peter’s Primary School in South Isle Road - which was being used as a Polling Place for the first time - despite their homes being closer to the long-standing Polling Place at the Whitlees Community Centre.  Others who had voted at the Whitlees for many years were re-allocated to the Civic Centre in Glasgow Street.  Meanwhile, residents of Greenacres and the Knockrivoch estate in Ardrossan had to cross into Saltcoats to vote at St Anthony’s Primary School.

With regard to problems in the Saltcoats & Stevenston Ward, Elma Murray’s report of June 2012 recorded, “The main issue arising...was that 472 voters in the newly created polling district N409, who would previously have voted at Hayocks Hall in Stevenston, were directed to vote instead at the Focus Centre, Saltcoats.  Whilst the Focus Centre was closer to the majority of voters in the polling district, feedback was received from a few candidates that some Stevenston voters objected to being directed to Saltcoats to vote, and others were not aware of the change.”

Council Election figures for Saltcoats & Stevenston revealed that, of the 13,354 people entitled to vote in person, just 3,861 (28.9%) did so.  In Ardrossan & Arran a total of 11,897 people could have voted at Polling Places, but only 4,294 (36%) ballots were cast.

Representatives of political parties manning Polling Places in the Three Towns at the Council Election reported numerous cases of people turning up to vote, only to be told they had come to wrong place.  Understandably, many decided to return home without voting rather than make their way to a different Polling Place, some of which were in another town.

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