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Lengthy queues at a number of polling stations at the close of poll at the general election on 6 May 2010 meant that a number of voters were unable to cast their votes. This Note gives details of the legislative provisions and the Electoral Commission’s guidance relating to polling hours, polling stations and the responsibilities of (Acting) Returning Officers.

The Electoral Commission decided to hold an immediate review of problems experienced by voters on polling day and this was published on 20 May 2010. The Commission recommended that the law should be changed to allow people still queuing at polling stations at 10pm to cast their vote. In its report on the administration of the 2010 general election the Commission again called for a change in the law.

The House of Lords Constitution Committee also called for the law to be amended so that voters who are present or in a queue at a polling station at the close of poll should be entitled to cast their votes.

The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and the Government have taken a different view, suggesting that addressing ‘inadequate planning processes and contingency arrangements’ should be a priority before a legislative solution is sought.

Standard Note as at 21 March 2012.

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