Labour members and supporters have begun protesting to the party about their lack of ballot papers with less than a week to go before the leadership election closes.
The party initially promised that 99.9% of its electorate would have received ballot papers by 28 August, but it is now refusing to disclose how many of the 554,000 have been sent out.
A initial batch of 340,000 was dispatched on 14 August, and a second batch of 170,000 voters should have received their ballots between 21-26 August. That would have left a final batch to receive their voting instructions by email by Friday 28 August.
However, with just four and a half working days until the ballot closes at midday next Thursday, many have taken to social media to complain to the party about worries that they could be disenfranchised in the contest.
A Labour spokesman said there was no need for people to worry because the process of sending out ballot papers is “still under way, and people can vote online right up to the deadline on 10 September.”
However, senior party figures, including Jeremy Corbyn, a leadership candidate, and Sadiq Khan, a candidate for London mayor, have urged people to contact the party for their papers to be reissued if they have not received them.
The Guardian office has taken a number of phone calls from members concerned that their ballot papers have not arrived.
Dawn Proud, a full member from Newbury in Berkshire, said she had joined in early August and received confirmation of her membership on 11 August – the day before the cutoff point for new joiners to be able to vote. She said the response since then had been like catch-22, as she cannot get through to anyone who will tell her when her ballot will arrive.
The number of people complaining publicly about missing papers will fuel suspicions that the party still has a backlog of membership and supporter applications to process, after a deluge of new people joined up to vote.
There were reports that a final batch of 120,000 had only been sent out last week, but Labour has refused to confirm this.
Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader, has been forced to defend her handling of the contest over the summer, amid complaints from some MPs, such as Ian Austin, who represents Dudley North, that the process has been a “shambles”.
Delays have been caused by the party’s decision to introduce a verification system to weed out infiltrators from other parties, including hundreds of Green members, Conservatives and members of various fringe parties.
However, Labour then received criticism from people who felt they had been unfairly purged from the party’s membership on account of merely expressing sympathy for other parties on social media.
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