Monday, 16 April 2012

Should Postal Votes Be Abolished?

In the 2010 General Election there were more than ten cases of postal vote fraud exposed by the press and some of them actually got as far as the courts. Judges decided that there had been definite proof of deliberate forgery or vote-robbery, some times on a large scale. Postal vote fraud was also detected in 2009 and 2006 yet so far nothing has been done to tighten up the system and prevent it.
The fact is that postal vote fraud is not difficult. When you fill in the council form stating the number of adults in your household all you have to do is add a few imaginary ones. The same can be done by activists working within the council offices. Hundreds of postal votes for non-existent people can then be issued and filled in by the one or two real people in the household.
Another approach is for party activists to offer kind help to all the aged and infirm voters in the constituency. Their postal vote forms are requested on their behalf and taken around to their house to be filled in and signed under the surveillance of the party activist. A show of kindness, assistance and sympathy is usually enough to guarantee that the old person will vote for the name indicated on the form by the party activist. Especially as they won't go away until you do. One woman in Oxford, in her eighties, told me that in 2010 she was persuaded by these means to vote Labour and did not know the full list of candidates. They never showed it to her. Another pensioner told me a similar story during the local election in Barton. The Labour vote machine works with awesome efficiency. They have perfected this technique over many years.
And Labour is not the only party to use these sort of tactics. A Libdem confessed to me not long ago that while he was helping their campaign in 2010 they told him to take a postal vote form to a doddery, geriatric person and get their cross in the Libdem box. "Labour will do it if we don't," was the explanation.
To be fair, it is possible that the Conservatives do the same, and that I have simply not bumped into any of them yet.
The situation with forged votes has been made worse with the change in the law to allow non-British citizens to vote in our elections. Anyone from the EU or the Commonwealth can now vote here. That makes it easier to invent names and plonk them on the electoral register as you don't have to account for where the people were last year or what they wre doing before they materialized in your home. It is reported that some small flats in Tower Hamlets have ten residents registered as living there. How can councils possibly check up on thousands of addresses?
It is high time that we cracked down on this scandal, and I can only conclude that the reason nobody is taking any steps is that most of the worst cases have been in predominantly Asian and Muslim areas, so that people are scared of being called racist. A sort of PC cowardice is deterring the government from taking steps to stamp out corruption. But corruption should never hide behind a screen of political correctness.
One approach would be to insist that all voters vote in person. On the day of the poll, party activists would be entitled to drive the elderly or disabled to the polling station but not to see how they vote. Another idea would be to require a passport to be submitted for every postal vote issued. A third idea would be to ban political activists from interfering in the postal vote process. A council official could visit the homes of the housebound and offer them a form to sign in strict confidence. Everybody else would have to go to the polling station.
If we do not act soon, and act decisively, then the rot will spread and more and more of our election results will be the product of fraud.

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