Fears for future of rural polling stations

PUBLISHED: 14:29 04 November 2009 | UPDATED: 00:30 16 June 2010

A PARLIAMENTARY candidate based in Axmouth has hit out at government proposals to cut polling stations and voting hours.

A PARLIAMENTARY candidate based in Axmouth has hit out at government proposals to cut polling stations and voting hours.

Dr Jon Underwood, of the Tiverton and Honiton Liberal Democrats, believes it will make voting more difficult for people, particularly in rural areas.

Temporary polling stations at general and local elections could be discarded with the move and some pensioners would have to travel miles to cast their ballot paper. Dr Underwood said: "Our single guiding principle for the electoral system is that everyone's vote must be treated equally.

"We must ensure that everyone lives within walking distance of a polling station, whether they live in a rural area or a town."

The action plan has been drafted by the Ministry of Justice for the Treasury in a bid to save money.

The draft proposals, outlined in the Local Government Chronicle, have not gone out to formal consultation.

The document offers a range of options, such as increasing the candidates' deposits and replacing poll cards with email alternatives, which could save a total of £65 million.

Dr Underwood added a more proportional system was needed to ensure every vote counted.

He said: "I would oppose any changes that attempt to cover over the fact that our political system is in crisis, with trust in politicians at an all time low.

"Most of the measures on the list compromise the integrity or equality of the treatment of people's votes. Our democracy isn't to be cheapened."

East Devon's Conservative MP Hugo Swire was unavailable to comment on the issue due to scheduled meetings.


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