Beware the Banana Republic Postal Ballot 95


Yet another election is about to be held under the UK’s dreadfully insecure postal ballot system, which an English judge who presides over electoral fraud cases has said “would disgrace a banana republic”.

In a single case, Judge Mawrey had come across postal ballot fraud being committed in 14 different ways. There have in fact been many convictions for postal ballot fraud. Some of these are of Labour councillors in Blackburn, where I personally came across a boarded up empty flat containing fifteen registered postal voters, and we chased Labour councillors from street to street as they collected bagfuls of uncompleted postal ballots. In that election, won by Jack Straw, at 37% Blackburn had the highest percentage of ballots cast by post in the UK. There have been numerous convictions for postal ballot fraud throughout the UK, but that is the tip of the iceberg and most of the time, they get away with it.

The system was introduced by Blair and I have no doubt that party advantage was in mind. There have been Tory convictions for postal ballot fraud in Birmingham, but Labour have been by far the biggest beneficiaries. To the extent that I had been puzzled why on earth the Condem coalition had not repealed this awful legislation. The answer is, of course, that they are willing to sacrifice a little ground in the fake battle between red tories and blue tories, in order to retain the postal ballot against the necessity of large scale vote rigging in the effort to keep Scotland under Westminster rule.

Party political activists know this next point to be true, but it is almost unbelievable. There is an electoral commission regulation which specifically facilitates postal ballot fraud. Postal ballots must be physically mixed in with other ballots before counting, so that it is impossible to tell if the postal ballot result differs markedly from the voting in person result. I can quite understand why they must be counted at the same time as other ballots, but physically mixed in?

The 800,000 postal ballots registered in Scotland are one major reason why we cannot be complacent about the opinion polls. This is wide open to fraud. Multiple voting or voting by non-existent “ghost” voters, or people living elsewhere, is perfectly possible at the ballot box but much more difficult and time consuming and much more open to detection.

The rationale for the abandonment of the classic secret polling booth ballot as the basic method of voting, was that postal voting would increase voter turnout. In fact, voter turnout has steadily fallen since its introduction. I predict in England – where there is no realistic prospect of change from the old trougher tory parties – it will fall again. In Scotland, where there is a vision of real change, turnout will be up. But if anybody thinks the British state is going to let Scotland move closer to independence without fighting dirty, they are extremely naïve.

In future, there should be a return to the principle that normally your vote should be cast in person at the secret ballot. To get off your arse to vote is not too much to ask for maintaining democracy. Postal votes should again be provided only to those who have medical certification that they are unable to attend the polling station, or evidence of living abroad. I favour tax certificates from a foreign country as the norm for the latter.


95 thoughts on “Beware the Banana Republic Postal Ballot

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  • Muscleguy

    In NZ you can vote in any polling station in the country for any constituency in the country. This system pertained prior to the internet too, each polling station had a big book containing the candidates for each seat and if you wished to vote somewhere else they looked up that book and hand wrote you a ballot paper. You voted and then sealed it in a Special Vote envelope.

    Special Votes get counted after the normal ones and can change results. On being opened the right of the voter to vote there is checked and they are checked for multiple voting. Having established that the vote is counted. The parties in close races will contest the qualification to vote.

    In the last NZ election 77.4% of the eligible population voted, this was slightly down on the previous election.

    In this country I not only cannot do that, I can’t vote in any polling place in this constituency, I have to go to the one listed on my polling card. This is unnecessarily restrictive. I’m not aware that attempts to multiply vote are rife in NZ. In the Information Age when documents like voting records can be read by machine detecting multiple votes could be simple and people made example of.

    Special postal votes can also be made but usually for things like ill health or being out of the country. I have cast a special vote in the High Commission in London for eg.

    So people away from home but still in the UK could vote wherever, pushed for time you could vote at lunchtime in a polling place near work.

  • Muscleguy

    I should also say that my first ever vote was a Special Vote. I was away in Dunedin at university and voted back home in Waitakere, Auckland. There was a long queue of students at the special vote desk and we felt for the poor returning officer. There was no way I could have afforded either the travel or the time off to travel almost the length of the country to vote. The number of students in Dunedin North (over 10% of the total city population) could materially affect the constituency for those who live there permanently.

    When in third year I got married and settled in Dunedin we registered to vote there.

  • rescue me

    Interesting that postal voting is seen as prone to abuse, but I can walk into a polling station and say my name is “Craig Murray” (for example), and be given a ballot paper.

    I can legitimately register in 2 places if I have a second home, or am a student, and legitimately vote twice in local elections, but no system is in place to check whether I can vote in that constituency at other elections, and I can legitimately choose to vote once in the constituency where my vote may have more influence.

    Corruption in Postal voting will be exposed, simply because checks are in place to do so.

  • Rixon Stewart

    You are being extremely naive if you think that the Scottish Nationalists represent a force for “real change”. They do not. They only represent more of the same, except instead of being beholden to Westminster they will be beholden to Brussels.

    Nor is it a coincidence that Rupert Murdoch is lending his support to the Nationalists, just as he once did with Tony Blair. Because they are merely another step toward a fully fledged New World Order: with smaller regional powers in the thrall of more powerful transnational governing bodies.

    That’s why the Scottish Nationalists want Scotland to remain in the European Union and NATO; and no doubt like Norway or Belgium, when called upon to provide troops for “peace keeping” operations or more tax revenue they will willingly oblige.

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