What we know about general election postal ballot delays

London, UK. 24th June, 2024. A postal vote for the 2024 general election being posted in a letter box in Clapham, Lambeth. Although the elections date is 4 July, people with postal votes who have already made up their minds can vote early, Credit: Anna Watson/Alamy Live News
The government is investigating issues with postal votes. (Alamy)

The government is "urgently" investigating delays to postal ballots being delivered ahead of the general election.

Postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake has criticised Royal Mail for failing to deliver votes in time for the vote and, on Tuesday, health minister Maria Caulfield confirmed he had launched an investigation.

Delays in receiving postal votes have been a particular problem in Scotland where most schools have broken up for the summer, but concerns have also been raised in other parts of the UK.

However, Royal Mail said there wasn't a backlog, with a spokesperson saying: "Where specific concerns have been raised, we have investigated and confirmed ballot packs are being delivered as soon as they arrive in our network."

Voters in a number of areas in the UK have reported delays in receiving their postal ballot packs, which enables voters to cast their ballot if they are away from home or if they are abroad on polling day.

People in areas such as Scotland, London, Devon and Essex are just some of those who say they have not received their postal vote documents.

According to the Daily Telegraph, voters in 90 constituencies have voiced concerns about their ballot papers not arriving.

On Tuesday, the government announced that postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake has launched an "urgent" investigation into the delays.

Postal vote for the 2024 UK General Election
There have been delays for many postal voters ahead of the general election. (PA)

He has previously blamed Royal Mail for voters not receiving their postal ballot packs. He told the Telegraph: "We urge Royal Mail to do all they can to make sure that postal votes get to the right people at the right time, and time is completely of the essence now.

"They have recruited extra people and I welcome that but they’ve got to make sure they’ve got the right number of people to deliver the mail at busy times like this.

"It’s not acceptable it’s sat in sorting offices. It needs to be delivered to people’s houses. So they need to put more people on to do that."

However, Royal Mail has hit back at the criticism, telling Yahoo News UK: “We have no backlog of postal votes and, whilst we are not complacent, we remain confident that postal votes handed to us on time will be delivered prior to polling day.

"Where specific concerns have been raised, we have investigated and confirmed ballot packs are being delivered as soon as they arrive in our network."

The spokesperson added that Royal Mail would welcome a review of the postal vote timetable for future elections.

Your guide to voting

The leaders

Scotland’s first minister John Swinney warned that some people could be “disenfranchised” if their postal votes cannot be filled out and returned on time, amid widespread reports of delays there.

In England, some 2,600 postal votes were also reportedly sent out late in Essex’s Uttlesford District Council, whose chief executive apologised for the delay caused by “human error”.

The Electoral Commission said it will look into the administration of postal voting after this election, while the Local Government Association (LGA) called for a review of the already “overburdened” system put under extra pressure by an “unprecedented increase” in people voting by post.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “The vast majority of postal votes have been delivered, with tens of thousands landing on doorsteps over the weekend. We are not aware of any outstanding large-scale issues.”

The responsibility for sending postal ballots to voters lies with local councils and completed postal votes must have reached councils by 10pm on 4 July.

The Electoral Commission said postal votes can be submitted by hand at council offices or at any polling station on election day.

It hasn't been confirmed how many constituencies have been affected by delays, and how many people are potentially at the risk of not being able to vote on Thursday.

The reasons for the delays have not been fully established, with councils, the Royal Mail and staffing issues all being blamed.

In the general election in 2019, one in five voters did so via a postal vote, and the LGA believes this could increase by 20% this time round, with more than 1.3 million postal vote applications made between 22 May and 19 June.