Merton Council is enacting changes designed to make postal voting more secure.

Merton Council’s Electoral Services Office is writing to all of the borough’s 13,000 postal and proxy voters. Under new laws, all absent voters have to send their date of birth and a specimen of their signature to their local Electoral Registration Officer (ERO). These details – called personal identifiers – will be kept securely by the ERO.

If these electors do not return their personal identifiers their absent votes will be cancelled; but they will still be entitled to vote in person at their polling station.

When postal votes are returned at future elections, a security statement will need to be sent with the ballot paper. The details on the security statement can then be checked against the personal identifiers.

These new laws were brought in after public concern about fraud at elections. These were highlighted at court cases in some parts of the country. Since a previous change in the law in 2001, postal votes have been available on demand. The massive growth in their use has shown that they are popular and convenient for many voters, but there is also more opportunity for their misuse.

The new measures should help to make sure that the elector applying for a postal vote is the same person then casting that person’s vote. The system will be used in the May elections taking place all over the country outside London. London’s local elections were held in 2006, when 8,000 of Merton’s votes were from postal voters.

It is expected that from 2008 – as another security measure – all voters at polling stations will have to sign for their ballot papers.

Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Samantha George, said:

“Merton Council is vigorously making sure that postal and proxy votes are protected, ensuring that every person’s vote is important within the democratic process both locally and nationally.”

Any electors with questions on the new laws can contact Merton Electoral Services on 020 8545 3407 or visit http://www.merton.gov.uk/voting.