Newcastle voter 'disenfranchised' as postal ballot fails to arrive in China as council couldn't print address in Chinese

A Newcastle voter has been left “incredibly frustrated” after being denied his say in the General Election as his postal ballot has not arrived in China.

Danny Hutton Ferris is currently on holiday in China and had applied for his postal vote pack to be sent there, but ran into trouble when it emerged that Newcastle City Council had been delayed in posting it as it was unable to print the address in Chinese characters. Local authority bosses have since sent the ballot but it has yet to arrive and the deadline for Dr Hutton Ferris, a lecturer in political theory and philosophy at Newcastle University, has also passed.

The 36-year-old, who is visiting his girlfriend’s family in the Yunnan Province in southwestern China, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he now felt “disenfranchised” having been denied the chance to cast a ballot in the Newcastle East and Wallsend constituency. He said: “I am incredibly frustrated.

"As a philosopher of democracy, I spend all my time writing about this and I see voting as one of our most fundamental rights. Now I feel like I have not got that right, like I have been disenfranchised through no fault of my own.”

Dr Hutton Ferris, who lives in Heaton, says he applied for a postal vote two days after the General Election was called as he knew he would be in China on polling day. He then contacted the council on June 10 after not hearing back from the city council and was told that the authority’s computer system could not reproduce the Mandarin characters on the Chinese address he provided.

While he did then provide the council with the address written in Pinyin, a system of writing Mandarin Chinese using the Latin alphabet, the ballot is yet to arrive – something he believes could be down to either the council’s delays or the address being in a script not understood by local postal staff in China. Dr Hutton Ferris has called on the council to improve its systems so that postal ballots can be sent to countries that do not use the Latin alphabet in future.

He added: “I know they [council staff] must be really overworked at the moment, but this is something I hope can be changed in the future. I have learned how to use Chinese characters on my computer, so I am sure that the council would be able to as well.

“It is not just China, it will be any country that does not use the Latin alphabet. Perhaps 10 or 20 years ago there were not many people wanting to vote from the Middle East or from China. But now they will and this is going to remain an issue over time. I think it is something that the council needs to look at seriously.”

A council spokesperson said: “The individual contacted us to request a postal vote to be sent to China where he would be at the time of the General Election. We attempted to process this request but unfortunately the software system did not recognise Chinese language characters.

“We spoke to him, and instead agreed to send it out in English. It was sent last week and is now in the hands of the postal services.”