YORK and Selby postal voters intending to cast their ballot in future elections must first register their signature and date of birth, as part of a Government move to protect against postal voting fraud.

Those who are already registered as postal voters will receive a letter asking them to confirm their details in the next month.

People registering for the postal vote for the first time will have to provide the same information.

The details will be retained in a secure database and verified against the confidential postal vote statement which accompanies the sealed ballot paper - to ensure someone else has not used the vote.

This move comes after The Press reported in May 2005 how 1,500 General Election postal votes for residents in south York had to be delivered by hand following a "mistake".

A City of York Council spokesman said: "We have sent a letter out to all postal voters, informing them that we will need a signature and a date of birth. They will get three opportunities to respond.

"A letter has gone out now, another one will go out in early February, then a final one in early March."

Martin Connor, returning officer for the Selby district, said: "The new legislation is designed to protect postal voters from other people fraudulently using their votes.

"It is vital that people complete all the details asked for in the application and on the ballot paper - failure to do so will invalidate the postal vote.

"At the election in May 2005, we had to discount 264 postal vote ballot papers as they had not been completed properly."

Legislation passed in 2001 extended the right to vote by post to anyone who wanted to do so - previously this right was only given to those not able to attend a polling station.

Mr Connor said: "This change means there are more postal votes than ever going through the system. At the General Election in May 2005 we had 8,000 postal votes in the Selby district and we are expecting even more to be registered for the local elections this May."

The new system has arrived following the recent Electoral Administration Act 2006.

If you have any questions about postal votes or how applications can be made, phone Selby District Council's elections and electoral registrations team on 01757 292006.