Better postal voter security amongst Government’s proposed changes to election law

This week the government has put three new changes to election law out for consultation:

  • Ending the automatic postponement of parish and community council elections in England and Wales that currently occurs when they fall on the same day as ordinary local government elections and either a Parliamentary or European Parliamentary general election.
  • Mandate 100% checking of the personal identifiers for postal votes at elections (comparing the signatures and date of birth given when a postal vote is cast against the originals on file from the postal vote application). Although 100% is often recommended and done, the law only requires a minimum of 20% to be checked at the moment.
  • Extending the emergency proxy voting facility to make it available for people called away on business or military service unexpectedly, and at short notice, before an election. Currently only voters who fall ill once the normal deadline for proxy applications has passed are able to appoint an “emergency” proxy up to 5 pm on polling day.

They join a set of other proposed changes, draft proposals for which are already out for consideration, including extending the timetable for Parliamentary elections from 17 to 25 days.

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8 Comments

  • Lorna Dupre 16th Sep '11 - 2:33pm

    Do the ‘other proposed changes’ include unifying the arrangements for parish/town and district council elections, including as regards (a) number of signatures required to request that a vacancy be filled, (b) number of signatures required on a nomination paper, and particularly (c) extending the deadlines for parish/town expense returns to match those for district expense returns. It would also be helpful if the role of an agent in parish/town council elections could be brought into line with that for district elections. Please say yes!

  • I don’t think that really tackles the problem with postal voting though. Certain the two areas I’ve operated in electorally did 100% checking of postal votes – though as they have both had electoral fraud prosecutions in recent years they may take a tighter line than other places.

  • I’m not a fan of postal voting but one thing that can be said for its introduction was that it was an attempt, however misconceived, to increase turnout.

    In contrast, the current government’s plans to introduce individual registration and make it non-compulsory will inevitably lead to a further drop in registration and with that, political participation. It will also, likely as not, penalise Labour – very convenient.

    The way it is being presented – as offering people the ‘freedom’ not to vote – makes me sick to the craw. How on earth can Liberal Democrats go along with this sophistry?

  • Mark – it is not the individual registration that bothers me, it is making it voluntary, and that is a recent innovation. It is one that – if the Guardian’s report is to be believed – has shocked a few coalition MPs. See here
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/15/shocked-mps-electoral-register-shake-up?INTCMP=SRCH

    If it’s made voluntary then presumably it will no longer be a statutory duty of local authorities to promote registration, so there will be an enormous amount of local variation on how much this is done. Poorer areas are likely to suffer disproportionally.

    Basically the onus will be on the indvidual to check that they are on the register, and many people who want to vote won’t do this – either because they won’t know about the change or because they have other preoccupations – like making a living.
    The first they will know of this is when they roll up at the polling station and get turned away.

    Dave Page: registration is compulsory at the moment, and as far as I am aware we don’t have compulsory voting to go with it. What you seem to be talking about is some kind of ‘democracy of the committeed’ – how very hard left of you.

    I would hope other Lib Dem supporters would share my concerns on this, and not rejoice in it merely because it is likely to disadvantage Labour.

  • penultimate para: ‘democracy of the committed’

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