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 To the extent that I had been puzzled why on earth the Condem coalition had not repealed this awful legislation.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.