'I'm 95 and voted in every General Election I can - but now I've been told I can't'

Jean Hughes was told she can't have a postal vote
-Credit: (Image: LancsLive)


A 95-year-old pensioner who has never missed voting in a General Election in her lifetime says she fears she will not be able to cast her ballot on July 4 - because the council doesn't recognise her National Insurance number.

Jean Hughes was born in 1928, the same year the Equal Franchise Act was passed granting equal voting rights to women and men. But now, almost 100 years on, and having voted with "no problems" since she was a fresh-faced teenager, she described her devastation at being told she may be sitting this one out.

Ahead of the recent local elections, Jean, from Darwen, was forced to apply for a proxy vote due to mobility and sight issues. However, when her application was submitted, accompanied by her National Insurance number, she was told by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council that her details didn't match that on her pension.

As a result, she told LancsLive she has been denied a proxy vote by the authority.

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"I've had no problems up until now," Jean said. "I worked from the age of 14 and they never had any problems taking tax from me!"

She told LancsLive she initially believed she may have mixed the National Insurance number up with that of her late husband - as her files had two numbers written down.

But when the second was tried with Blackburn with Darwen Council, she was told that number also wasn't recognised.

Jean, who worked as a screen printer at the ROF factory in Lower Darwen until she retired aged 66, now faces an agonising wait to be told whether or not she'll be forced to miss out on voting in a General Election for the first time in her life.

"My husband was always a really strong believer in voting and always said it's our civic duty," she added. "I'm part of that generation. I just hope it can be sorted quickly because my vision isn't great and I won't be able to go out and vote in person."

In order to apply for a postal or proxy vote, a voter needs to supply their name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number. These are available to those who are unable to reach a polling station on polling day.

The deadline to apply is 5pm on Wednesday June 26, which means Jean has just over two weeks to secure her vote.

Jean, who still lives independently at her home in Aysgarth Drive, had initially sought the help of Councillor Dave Smith who represents the Sunnyhurst ward where she lives.

Cllr Smith said: "Because Jean struggles with her sight I said I'd fill in the proxy vote application form. I took it into the town hall and they said that the NI number she had provided, which I saw on her pension correspondence, didn't match her pension.

"As well as the NI number Jean gave me, which matched the format for her year of birth, there was another on documentation which I imagine was her husband's who died not too long ago. And they said neither match her records."

Since speaking to Jean, LancsLive has contacted HMRC, which manages National Insurance numbers. A spokesperson told us they would look into her case.

They said they will be able to confirm Jean's NI number in an official letter. Jean is now hoping this arrives before the June 26 deadline.

But she fears she won't be able to secure a proxy in time for the General Election on July 4.

The National Insurance (NI) Scheme was first introduced in 1948. The number, assigned to an individual for life, consists of a two-letter prefix followed by six numbers and a one letter suffix. Initially, the system was a contributory form of insurance against illness and unemployment, and eventually provided retirement pensions and other benefits. Contributions are collected by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Denise Park, (Acting) Returning Officer for the Parliamentary Election in Blackburn, said: "Our Elections team is here to support voters to be able to vote in the way that best suits them, whether in person at a polling station, by post or by proxy. We cannot comment on individual cases but will offer help to anyone who needs it to be able to exercise their democratic right."

LancsLive contacted the Electoral Commission who said they do not comment on individual cases.