Personal data breach as thousands of postal ballots go astray

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Bournemouth Town Hall, HQ for BCP Council

PERSONAL data of thousands of voters across south east Dorset has been mistakenly sent to the wrong home due to a blunder with the delivery of postal ballots.

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In several cases, multiple ballots were delivered to one address by the printer contracted by BCP Council, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The council is responsible for overseeing the Bournemouth East, Bournemouth West, Christchurch, Mid-Dorset and North Poole and Poole constituencies for next week’s general election.

It has now launched an investigation into the issue. A spokesman said it had received 32 reports by last Thursday but had “no idea” of its true scale.

A source, who asked not to be identified, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that between 4,000 and 6,000 people may have been affected.

“This is a huge and very serious data protection breach,” they said.

“Postal ballots are often requested by people who know they are going to be away over the election.

“This is one of the most important elections we have had, and some of these people may now not be able to take part – it’s not going to be a fair vote.”

They said the council had been urged to make the issue public yesterday but had decided to keep it under wraps.

The council spokesman said they had planned to do so after all postal ballots had been sent out.

‘It’s not going to be a fair vote’

“With 55,000 registered postal voters in the BCP Council area there is always the potential for issues to arise, especially when dealing with a snap election,” they said.

“In this case it appears a handful of postal voting statement packs sent out enclose not only the individual’s forms but also those belonging to an additional voter.

“The numbers appear small and as these have been reported they are formally recorded and a member of staff personally sent out to collect the forms, put [them] in the required envelopes and redeliver to the correct recipient.

“We have already launched an investigation with our printing supplier into how this has happened and apologise to anyone who has been affected.

“We would also like to reassure that due to the high number of failsafe checks and measures in place with the postal voting system, we are confident that the risk of anyone casting more than one vote is fully mitigated.”

Errors were also made on some ballot papers which had birth years prefixed with ‘20’ on forms delivered to people born before the turn of the century.

The council also blamed its printers for delays issuing postal ballots ahead of the local elections in May.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it was aware of the issue and was working with the council to “understand how the error happened”.

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