First postal votes start to arrive in the city's mayoral referendum
POSTAL votes have begun flooding in for the referendum next week which will decide whether Bristol should have an elected mayor.
Council staff have begun checking the ballot slips in readiness for the count on Friday.
The council is consistently asked for about 42,000 postal voting forms at each election, which represents about 13 per cent of the city's 300,000 electorate.
The return on postal votes also remains constant, at about 70 per cent. So far, the return during the first few days has been about 30 per cent, which reflects normal trends.
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It also means voters are bothering to engage with the referendum – despite fears that polling day will see a very low turn out, partly because there are no elections for seats on the city council this year.
Every postal vote is checked with an electronic scanner to make sure that the voter's signature and date of birth tally on both their postal slip and ballot paper.
The scanner rejects about 15-20 per cent of papers, which are then checked manually.
Council managers appear to have upped their game so far this year after the election shambles at the Council House two years' ago.
A review was ordered after a tediously slow count which saw ballot papers end up in the wrong boxes and counts refusing to tally. The verification has also been stepped up because of an election fraud scandal in Birmingham, which a judge described last week as similar to an election in a banana republic.
People who turn up to the verification process have their identification checked and are read the relevant sections of the Secrecy Act, partly due to a breach of electoral law by Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, pictured, during the last general election.
Ms McCarthy received a police caution in 2010 after she posted preliminary postal vote figures on internet social networking site Twitter before the polls closed.
Once all the postal votes are checked, they will be sent on Thursday night to Ashton Gate, where the count will be held.
All the ballot boxes will remain in locked rooms and all the doors will be manned by security guards during the night.
The count will begin at 10am on Friday, starting with verification of the ballot papers from poll stations.
Then the real count will start with an estimated result expected at about lunchtime.