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U.K. Election May Face Legal Challenges After Voters Locked Out

Britain’s general election was marred yesterday when some voters in constituencies across the country were turned away when polls closed at 10 p.m.

Polling stations in Leeds, Newcastle and parts of London were among those with such difficulties, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. In Sheffield, returning officer John Mothersole wrote an apology to residents who were unable to vote after lining up to cast ballots.

“We got this wrong,” he said in a statement on the city council’s website. “We were faced with a difficult situation with the numbers of people and a large amount of students turning up to vote without polling cards.”

Senior members of the governing Labour Party, including deputy leader Harriet Harman and Justice Secretary Jack Straw, said the disruption may lead to some results being questioned. Sky News reported that the Electoral Commission, which oversees voting in the U.K., will investigate some polling stations.

“It shows a lack of foresight and preparation,” Straw told Sky News, adding that there could be legal challenges in some places. “It’s a very unsatisfactory situation. It’s something in my very long experience in British politics I’ve never, ever heard of,” he said.

Simon Hughes, a Liberal Democrat with a seat in south London, said he was concerned about the situation earlier in the day and asked electoral officers to prepare for an evening rush. .     Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said on BBC television that officials should have brought in voters lining up on the street and locked the door, allowing them to cast ballots. Mandelson said the situation would disadvantage Labour relative because its supporters tend to vote later in the day.

Exit polls showed the opposition Conservatives gaining the most seats, though still short of a majority in parliament. It would be the first stalemate since 1974.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Deen in London at

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