Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

On Postal Votes and Dying Democracy

No, I'm not talking about the dumbed-down situation we've reached where the issues are far less important than the profile of whichever vacuous, hypocritical, past-it scumbag endorses you.

I'm talking about this, by Ben Judah in 'Politico':

It would take me much longer than I’ve got to explain biraderi politics in Bradford, clan-based politics, and people actually do deliver 20, 30, 50 votes. Through their extended families, what tends to happen is, the kind of head of the household, or the kind of head of the clan, makes a decision how they’ll vote. So if somebody, in I don’t know, Penge (South London) said I could deliver you 50 votes you would laugh. But here . . . it’s true. They deliver bundles of votes.

Postal vote fraud has been in the news before, ever since the previous 'administration' removed pretty much all the rules on them. By 2005 we saw cases that would have 'shamed a banana republic', and of course more recently the shenanigans of corrupt Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman. Even a cursory trawl through Google threw up a significant number of other cases in recent years.

In that case, Electoral Commissioner Richar Mawrey said, “The ease of postal vote fraud and the difficulty of policing it led to such a great upsurge in personation that, in the Birmingham case, the number of false votes was virtually half of all votes recorded as having been cast for the winning candidates.”

What we are seeing in some parts of the country now is, whatever the cultural reasoning behind it, electoral fraud on an industrial scale - not done behind the scenes, but absolutely openly. And with the polls and the outcome of tomorrow's General Election as tight as they are, the implications are not merely at a constituency level, but potentially affect the national result as well.

But in today's climate, how do you challenge open abuse of our system without calling down outraged calls of racism or, worse, the dreaded 'Islamophobia'?

Well, we have a constituency democracy: one person, one vote. That vote should matter, and the principle matters as well. Intimidation at polling stations can more easily be controlled than postal votes and while the argument for postal votes increasing engagement is sound (even if it's made by the party that most frequently seems to have complaints made about postal vote fraud), the obvious and widespread abuse since the relaxation of the rules in 2000 means that they can't be considered secret and secure any more.

If cultural mores mean that the our democratic principles are being abused, then we shouldn't ignore it from fear of screeching outrage, but meet it head-on. And if we can't change the culture, we have to change the system.  

The decision surely has to be made now to repeal the changes to postal votes and, if necessary, suspend them completely and devise a new method of remote voting that isn't as open to abuse.

Because if we don't do something soon, then we might as well wave goodbye to free and fair elections - and to democracy itself - in the UK. 

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