POSTAL voting in this year's district and parish council elections will cost \u00A322,000. But it is likely to generate a better than usual "turnout". Council Taxpayers will have to stump up \u00A310,000 for a signature scanner and associated software, with a similar bill just for software maintenance in future years. The council will get a Whitehall grant of \u00A312,000 for this year only. The investment is needed because of the Electoral Administration Act 2006, which received Royal Assent at the turn of the year and which increases security attached to postal voting by requiring voters to confirm their dates of birth and to supply a signatures to match that held by the electoral registration office. Around 15,000 voters have registered for a postal ballot this year, compared with 10,000 previously. Typically, 50-60 per cent of postal votes are actually cast, compared with physical turnouts that can sometimes be below 20 per cent. But some of the responses to this year's exercise are causing officials to tear their hair out, HDC chief executive David Monks told last week's cabinet. Some letters have been returned with double signatures, others from people claiming that they will be born in September 2007, yet still entitled to vote. Many others have been signed by people other than those to whom they were addressed. In a departure from long-established practice, this year's count will take place on the Friday morning following the Thursday election, instead of immediately after the poll closes at 10pm, cabinet decided. "The staff will certainly appreciate your support for that," said David Monks, HDC chief executive, Huntingdonshire's Returning Officer and the country's leading expert on electoral law and practice. "I'm not a handwriting expert, and I think it's unfair to ask someone else to make a decision at three o'clock in the morning about whether or not a signature is genuine. I will do it myself. If it goes wrong, the poison arrows come my way.