A late rush to the polls in Hackney led to a voter sit-in and demands for an enquiry by Parliamentary candidates. Andrew Boff, Hackney’s Conservative mayoral candidate, said up to 150 angry voters staged a sit-in protest after the polling station closed with queues of people outside.
The sitting MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington seeking re-election, Diane Abbott, told East London Lines reporter Kieron Yates that she had made an official complaint.
Diane Abbott says that she was aware of the problem of late voters building up at 9 pm and had expressed concern that people might be turned away.
Hackney’s returning officer, Tim Shields, told East London Lines:
“In Hackney, as across the country, there has been a high turn out, especially in the final few hours. We deployed extra staff in a number of our polling stations to deal with high voter numbers. Legally, we cannot allow voting to continue after the 10 pm deadline. We share residents frustrations but we must work within the law.”
Andrew Boff feared that the number unable to vote could have been double as some had given up in the face of the long queues.
The protest took place at a polling station in Triangle Road and broke out after people were turned away after queueing for more than an hour-and-a-half.
Two of Hackney’s Labour candidates, Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier, made an official complaint to the borough’s returning officer after it emerged that life-long Labour supporters may not have been able to cast their votes in the Hackney constituencies. The call was also supported locally and nationally by the conservatives. Simon Nayyar, Conservative candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch said:
“I will be calling for a full public inquiry. This is something that should not be allowed to happen in Hackney South and Shoreditch or anywhere.”
Diane Abbott hopes that the electoral commission enquiry will ensure that the events in Hackney are never repeated.
A similar crisis of late voting occured in Lewisham. But there the returning officer, with the support of the election candidates ‘locked in’ voters on the polling station precincts and at one site ballot papers were handed out to the queue before the deadline.
The voting crisis has substantially delayed the completion of the counts in Hackney and Lewisham and the results are not expected to be declared until later in the morning.