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SA – Thanks for getting involved and taking this important step; we so need people to wake up to the reality of what just occurred electorally and take challenging action just as you have. I read through the Interim Report again and was once again drawn to certain critical points. One was the admitted complications and restrictions preventing anyone from bringing a Petition Challenge whether that was for allegations of deliberate gross misconduct and fraud or for a genuine mistake that required prompt correction. Prohibitive legal costs inhibit any legitimate access to a challenge which must ultimately encourage fraud.
Although the report stated that: “Challenging the validity of an election is done through an election petition, which is heard by an election court. An election court can annul an election or correct the result. The election petition is the only mechanism for challenging elections.” The reality was revealed in an admission that during Representation of the People Act 1983 the Electoral Commission had said that: “the election petition in the case of Tower Hamlets :highlighted the almost prohibitive cost and complexity faced by candidates or ordinary electors who want to challenge elections, because of the outdated legal procedures that are currently set out in law’.”
One contributor to the report, Henni Ouahes, argued that the petition system was: “not fit for purpose” and said that: “although the petitioners won the Tower Hamlets case ’the big scandal at the time was that, although they won, they had to, essentially, face losing their homes if they had lost’.” The report quoted Andy Erlam, one of the petitioners in the Tower Hamlets case, when he argued that legal aid should be introduced for election petitions “which reach a certain threshold” and that frivolous or vexatious petitions could be dealt with by being struck out. Ultimately, “the citizen should always have the power to challenge an election result.”
Another contributor, Dr Wilks-Heeg, told the panel that: “in cases where there are serious allegations of corrupt and illegal practices, there was a very serious risk that election petitions would not be brought because the potential petitioners would not be willing to bear the risks and costs. Professor Sobolewska argued that: “victims of fraud tend to be people living in conditions of social deprivation and marginalisation, who would not be able to bear such cost or access complex legal advice.” So where do we stand now with multiple allegations made all over the UK with regard to the 2019 General Election that could cumulatively have amounted to a rigged result?
The conclusion drawn in the report was that: “The election petition system for challenging elections is archaic, too complicated and not fit for purpose. It is in the public interest that meritorious election petitions are brought forward but the under the current system there is a risk that such petitions will not be brought forward, due to the complexity of the process and the level of potential cost. We agree with the Law Commission’s recommendation that that the election petition system is brought into the modern court system. As part of any such reform, the Government must ensure the right balance is struck between ensuring access to justice for electors and also preventing vexatious attempts to challenge elections.”
One piece of input that bounced off the page was a suggestion that with a: “rare opportunity” to “modernise other aspects of electoral law: “Possible reforms could include automatic registration of 16-year olds when they receive their national insurance numbers” “Strengthening the long-term funding of elections” was mentioned separate from later criticism of the obscene amounts donated by a single individual with the opportunity underlying opportunity to by political influence.
Under the report’s analysis of Digital campaigning I did not see any mention of the targeting of “persuadable” voters, whose data we now know was obtained illegally, being targeted with “Weapons grade PsyOps technology” in a relentless campaign of disinformation. Among official circles there appears to be a poor understanding of the power of this modern technology in the wrong hands. What was documented was that: “In its consultation response on Protecting the Debate: Intimidation, Influence and Information, the Government confirmed its intention to introduce an imprint regime for digital campaign material.”
It was recorded that “Witnesses to our inquiry welcomed such a proposal” and that: “Some witnesses contended that further reforms were necessary for digital campaigning. The Electoral Reform Society argued steps needed to be taken to improve ‘transparency on spending and ad content more broadly’, which would necessitate a more comprehensive review of electoral rules.” It noted that: “The Electoral Commission provided some recommendations for digital campaigning such as: Digital campaign material must have an imprint saying who is behind the campaign and who created it.”
There was a call for Campaigners to: “sub-divide their spending returns into different types of spending and should give more information about the money spent on digital campaigns” and a suggestion that “Social media companies should work with the Electoral Commission to improve their policies on campaign material and advertising for elections and referendums in the UK.” Criticism also targeted the online media campaigns on social networks for being unregulated.
It was0 documented that: “Although social platforms and online media are seen as an instrument that enables citizens to communicate with candidates or elected representatives, a number of state-sponsored and private initiatives have been undertaken to define and tackle the problems arising from unregulated online campaigning. Several ODIHR NAM interlocutors voiced concerns about potential foreign and domestic spread of fake online content and disinformation during the campaign period, which might affect the integrity and credibility of the election process. According to the ODIHR NAM interlocutors, changes in the primary election legislation are required to introduce provisions to regulate online campaigning.”
Recommendations included: “imprints on digital campaign material, increasing maximum fines, and giving the EC greater powers to compel information from third parties.” Some examples cited included: “Facebook introduced ‘Ad Library’ which offers a searchable collection of currently running advertisements. Twitter recently announced that it would be banning political advertising globally. Most recently, Google introduced measures to increase transparency and to bar political advertisers from targeting voters by limiting election advertisement audience being targeted based on the general categories: age, gender, and general location.” The regulations are having a hard time keeping pace with technology, but our democracy is at stake so we must try harder.
There was analyses of the proposal for introducing a Voter ID requirement where the measure was accurately described as a “sledgehammer to crack a nut” with the evidence of voter personating incidents described as negligible and the significant risk of disenfranchising vulnerable groups and ethnic minorities unacceptably high. The report called for more pilot studies to determine efficacy before this was considered for introduction across the UK. In the US voter ID laws have been introduced as a deliberate tactic for suppressing the minority vote; that this goal has been successfully achieved is no indication that it should be emulated.
The Report noted that: “Under the current body of electoral law, nearly everyone involved in a general election faces significant risks or challenges. A primary cause of this is the archaic and confusing state of electoral law. This is not an acceptable state of affairs. The updating and simplification of electoral law must be seen as a pressing priority for the Government.” In a very clear acknowledgement that significant problems exist they also recommend that: “…our successor Committee should carry out an inquiry into the role and effectiveness of the Electoral Commission.” AMEN TO THAT!
A Watchdog that cannot Watch is just a dog! We need the UK Electoral Commission to be appropriately empowered by the Government to fully protect the security and integrity of our votes with the power to nullify a mistaken or a corrupt election result and severely penalize the perpetrators. All Votes Must Count so it us time to “Rescue our Watchdog”
Please, read, sign, share and Link to this vital Petition: 2019 TORY LANDSLIDE VICTORY DEMANDS URGENT NATIONWIDE INVESTIGATION.