AN ADMINISTRATIVE blunder has this morning led to some voters in Bournemouth casting votes on the wrong ballot papers – or being told to come back later.

All nine polling stations in Kinson North and Kinson South were affected by a printing error on books of ballot papers for the borough council elections.

Books of ballot papers intended for polling staff in Kinson North had covers marked ‘Kinson South’ and vice versa.

It is thought the mistake was pointed out early this morning by the second voter at one of the Kinson polling stations. He said the person before him had already cast a vote.

Rob Curtis, 27, who voted at Kinson Methodist Church, said: “I arrived just before 7am and when I went in, I was the second one there.

“I got my two ballot papers and made my parliamentary vote and then looked for the local election names, which were wrong.

“Basically, the number on the back of the ballot paper were right, but the names were wrong.

“When I told the polling station staff they were shocked. I went back about 9am to vote for the council elections. The person who voted first can’t have noticed.”

Some Daily Echo readers have said they were allowed to vote in the general elections but were told to come back later to cast their vote in the council poll. Some said they would be unable to return to the polling station later.

Betting shop manager Gary Stafford was at the Kinson Methodist Church to cast his vote at 7.45am. He was told he could not vote in the council election for Kinson North and would have to come back later.

“I can’t get away from work until 10pm. My wife is a nurse and she’s in London on a course,” he said.

“We went around there early to get it done. It’s such a shambles.”

Bournemouth Borough Council’s chief executive Tony Williams, who is acting returning officer in the elections, said: “The nine polling stations in Kinson South and Kinson North have experienced a temporary problem early this morning due to a printing error with the ballot papers. This did not affect the parliamentary election, only the local.

“The error caused the ballot papers for Kinson South to be labelled as those for adjacent Kinson North and vice versa, because the wrong ward name was printed on the cover of the ballot paper books.

“This has resulted in a small number of electorates, estimated at 50 per ward, being unable to vote early this morning in the local election. We are now in the process of contacting these people to ensure they can place their vote later today.

“We can reassure voters that this problem was noticed first thing this morning and fully resolved for all affected polling stations by 9.30am. These are all now operating as normal."

In a new statement this afternoon, Mr Williams said the Electoral Commission had been made aware and was "satisfied with the approach the council is taking to ensure affected people are given every opportunity to cast their vote".

He added: “Targeted flyers are being hand delivered by council staff to those affected individuals in the two wards this afternoon making it clear they should return to the polling station in order to cast their vote in the local elections.

"A helpline number has been made available up to 10pm for residents to contact the council should they need assistance, such as help with transport, to cast their vote.

“The council also wishes to make clear that postal votes have not been affected.

“Until the votes have been counted it is impossible to state at this stage whether this issue has affected the outcome in those wards. Candidates and agents for the two wards are being kept fully informed.

“We apologise unreservedly for the inconvenience caused and urge anyone affected to return to make their vote count.”

In response to a query from the Daily Echo, Bournemouth council has said people can apply for emergency proxy votes if they have been affected by this morning’s problems and are unable to return to the polling station later.

They should ring 01202 451183.

A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said: “We’re aware of it and are working with the council and the local returning officer to make sure the issue is resolved as quickly as possible.”

She could not comment on whether the result could be open to challenge.

David Kett, a former public affairs lecturer at Bournemouth University, said: “I’ve never heard of it happening before.

“If it’s close, I’ve no doubt it could be challenged or they could be asked to have it re-run.”

A letter was this morning being hand-delivered to affected voters. Mr Williams was in Kinson discussing the problem with election staff and a team was being assigned to deal with the problem.

The polling stations for Kinson North are: Cornerstone Baptist Church Baptist, Holloway Avenue; Kinson School, School Lane; Kinson Community Centre, Pelhams Park; Kinson Methodist Church Hall, Wimborne Road, Northbourne.

The polling stations for Kinson South are: Temporary Polling Station opposite 10 High Howe Close; Heathlands Primary School, Andrews Close, off Springwater Road; St Philip's Church Centre, Mount Road, Bournemouth; Cornerstone Baptist Church Holloway Avenue (doubles for Kinson North); temporary polling station, corner of High Howe Lane and Shapland Avenue.