Monday, March 05, 2007

End Postal Votes on demand now! End vote fraud!

Sometimes I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with almost every word spoken by George Galloway MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. However on this issue I agree. In fact I agreed with almost every word he said.

I read this article on Respects website, and watched the youtube video of his speech to parliament on the issue of fraudulently gained postal votes. He cited much shenanigans in Tower Hamlets. Here are some choice quotes:
"Listening to the Minister tonight, one would not think that in addition to welcoming Polish plumbers, builders, bus drivers and vegetable pickers, we should now be forced to welcome a Polish parliamentarian to investigate large-scale voting fraud here, in the mother of all Parliaments."
Shocking isn't it, that our elections should be investigated for fraud by a country that was 18 years ago in the grip of tyranny?
When, hard on the heels of the Second Reform Act of 1867, Gladstone introduced the Ballot Act 1872 to enshrine that right in law, that was a vital step forward for democracy in Britain, but it is being recklessly tossed aside. The claimed justification for the changes to the postal voting system is that they will increase voter participation. Of that there is not one jot of evidence, but there is plenty of evidence of how wide open to corruption they have made the political system.
Good turn of words. However one thing George did not hammer home in his speech is the nature of the secret ballot. Let us say for example that you live with a candidate for an election. You could tell them you are going to vote for them, right up until the point you go into the polling booth, and make your mark, vote for someone else, and then having cast your vote come and and say you voted for them. When you have a postal vote that becomes much harder. Peer or indeed parental pressure can get you to change your vote. It is wrong, and it is not secret. However George goes on to list many examples of potential fraud in his own seat at the council elections, and others. Here are some other quotes.
"Trade unions affiliated to new Labour sent out postal vote application forms by the hundreds of thousands to their members and others, and asked them to return the forms not to the town hall charged with managing the election, but to their trade union headquarters, to a post office box hundreds of miles away from the person filling in the form. There was no good reason for that, but there are plenty of bad reasons on which one could speculate. It is but a short step from that manipulation of the electoral process,which is none the less legal, to the fraudulent application for postal votes by people other than the voters themselves, with the instruction that the vote should be sent to an address other than the registered address of the voter.

In Tower Hamlets last May, we witnessed the most corrupt election held in Britain since 1872. Hundreds of votes were purloined by crooks applying for postal votes and getting them redirected to an address sometimes just doors away from the registered address of the voter. Whole blocks of flats woke up to discover that every one of their residents had applied for a postal vote to be redirected to another address without their knowledge. Some 2,800 postal vote applications were delivered to the town hall in Tower Hamlets in the last hours of the last day, and many were brought in by sitting councillors. A total of 18,732 postal votes were registered in Tower Hamlets: a vast increase on the vast increase that had occurred at the general election the year before. Almost 15 per cent. of those were delivered on the last afternoon. A total of 946 postal votes were redirected to addresses that were not the registered address of the voter, with considerably more as a percentage in the wards where new Labour councillors were under pressure."
However what ought to concern everyone involved in politics the most is this:
"Like the Minister, I am a former Labour party official. I have been fighting elections for almost40 years, almost always on the winning side. I know about elections. Now, for the first time in my political life, people ask me, "How do we know that they are counting these votes fairly? How do we know they are not rigging the election?" I am not saying that that is happening, but there is a systematic undermining of confidence in the electoral process, caused largely by postal vote fraud."
You can read the full text of the speech here, and indeed watch the video.

There are two problems here. The first is vote fraud, as highlighted up and down the land, then there is the lack of enforced secrecy of the ballot. It is a huge mistake.


Anonymous said...

Here is an issue the Tories could make their own. Abolish postal voting, save in special circumstances (illness, infirmity, absence abroad). It is ESSENTIAL that we restore trust in the ballot.

Benedict White said...

Trumpeter Lanfried, I agree. Part of the problem though is that it is convienient for all parties to have their votes in the bag, and early.

I seriously dislike postal votes on demand for a lot of reasons. It is not capable of any reform I would be satisfied with.

Its proponents claim it gets the vote up. So what. Anyone can stuff a ballot box. What is the target? 110% turnout?

Anonymous said...

So I won't be able to vote early ,vote often, oh well.

Benedict White said...

Anonymous, Well that's my plan! :)

Anonymous said...

It’s a bit rich for Galloway to complain about Labour undermining democracy when he himself discriminates against whole sections of Bethnal Green and Bow because they are not in his core voting group. Respect, being a joint venture of Socialist worker and some Islamist group, has their own ideas on who needs ‘help’ and who is the enemy.

The bigger shame is that he is allowed to get away with it. Under parliamentary rules it is purely up to him if and how he deals with constituency matters. It establishes a terrible precedent. If ever some group like the BNP managed to get a seat at Westminster they can now legitimately refuse to handle cases of non-white constituents.

Benedict White said...

Anonymous, Galloway may or may not discriminate against parts of his constituency, but if he does and there is a fair voting system he can be thrown out.

I would be interested in links to evidence to support what you have said though.

Anonymous said...

I'm a left-wing liberal from Washington State, and I run a blog tracking problems with Postal Voting at:

So it's not just England that sees cross boundary ideolgoical agreement in fighting against postal voting.

Benedict White said...

Gentry,many thanks. If you look at the links I have in some articles the most left wing MP in the House of Commons agrees as well!

Postal voting is a very bad idea!