Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How to Vote in the Banana Republic of Birmingham

I've just been having my daily flick through the threads on Today they've been discussing postal voting and the debate got on to voting abuses. The following is from a post by someone called Iain from Birmingham. He doesn't say which Party he's from. This is shocking...

"I’ve seen presiding officers trying to sling out correctly appointed polling agents, agents and even the candidate. I’ve even seen that happen where people not correctly appointed from the other parties have been inside the station working it. I’ve seen people being allowed to canvass and hand out palm cards inside the polling station. I’ve seen women hand over blank voting papers to fill in to men and when I exploded in a fit of rage, I was told it was a cultural practice and I was being racist. I’ve seen people showing a polling agent their vote. I’ve seen presiding officers ignore me when I’ve issued a challenge to a voter. I’ve seen presiding officers ignore the law on things like tendered ballots. I’ve seen the police called on tellers who are outside the gates of the polling station. I’ve seen tellers in places where they shouldn’t me (including at least once, some of mine ). Before the new easy-fraud postal system, I’ve seen mini-buses of young men going from polling station to polling station with some old geezer giving them fresh poll cards at each station. I’ve seen polling cards not delivered to flats, just dumped at the bottom of the stairs ready to be scooped up. I’ve seen binbags used as ballot boxes “because it was full”. I’ve seen gangs of people intimidating voters outside polling stations. I know this because I’ve had voters to say they wanted to go and vote but were too scared. I didn’t see, but was told that there was a small pitched battle outside a couple of polling stations in 2005, I’ve certainly seen a polling station where it was very close to kicking off. I’ve watched an election lost by 24 votes where it was proved that at least 30 voters in person were dead, in prison or out of the country on the day. We screwed up the election petition, sadly, and as usual the powers that be were not interested."

The Electoral Commission was set up by Tony Blair in 1999 but I see scant little evidence of voting procedures having become more secure. I wonder if this is because the Commission is actually a rather toothless quango. On many occasions it has recommended change to the Government and the Government has completely ignored them. What's the point in having an Electoral Commission is you're going to constantly ignore its recommendations?


Chris Palmer said...

It's not who votes - but who counts the votes.

Supposedly 1.5million fake/fraud postal votes were cast for Labour in the 2005 election.

These incidents described don't really suprise me.

Edward said...

Perhaps it's time to move towards a more US-style system of voter-ID requirements.

Anonymous said...

Iain is a Liberal Democrat (the reference to losing by 24 votes and screwing up the petition is the Sparkhill Ward in 2000 - despite the comment, nothing was 'proved' but then what do you expect from a Liberal Democrat?). As a Labour candidate in 2004 I had a Lib Dem candidate spend the whole day outside a polling station in a strong Muslim area of the Ward greeting voters as they were going into the polling station.

There aren't many clean hands in Birmingham and certainly not the Liberal Democrats who are also starting to discover some of the difficulties of inner city politics there. Witness the suspension of Lib Dem constituency parties in the inner cities due to alleged 'Asian entryism'.

The Conservaties are probably not especially involved in the problems, but then they don't have any prospects in the areas where voting gets a bit 'inventive'.

Anonymous said...

I am horrified!

Anonymous said...

It's become very clear to me since i mistakenly believed in 1997 Blair would rid this country of sleaze,abslolute blatant political dishonesty and misappropriation of funds and all the etcereras' that have become appropriate to his tiresome oppressive regime.
The depths this regime has plummed to hang on to power has reach the equivelent of the Marianas trench in political terms. So it is no suprise that we read of this fraud at the ballotbox. A banana republic that has evolved very rapidly since 1997.

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt these things go on - most presiding officers are clowns who know nothing about electoral law, the conduct of a polling station or even that they are actually meant to verify that every piece of paper that goes into a ballot box is a stamped ballot paper.

The idea that this is all because of Labour is a joke, though. The past masters at voting fraud were the Hackney Lib Dems - assisted by the Tories in some elections in recent years.

Having said all that most people I have come accross in elections - and I've seen a hell of a lot, were honest and decent and not law breakers.

Local authorities should do something about the monkeys they employ to preside over the ballots. But fraud is tiny and the idea that Labour got 1.5 million fraudulent votes in 2005 tells you more about the poster than the issue.

Anonymous said...

Its curious that so many marked registers from 2005 have been "lost" somewhere between the count and the central store run by Pickfords. Makes it rather difficult to check if you think something doesn't quite add up in an election result!

PoliticalHackUK said...

I was also a candidate in 2004 and a polling agent and counting agent in 2005. I had to get Respect campaigners slung out of polling stations and had a Lib Dem campaigner removed from a polling station precinct for pushing his luck with voters.

I'd entirely agree with comments about certain wards being persistently dodgy, regardless of the winner. There are dubious elements in all parties - including the Liberal Democrats - and the failure of the recent Aston election petition is disappointing, because it would have allowed the public trial of some interesting allegations about the LDs involved.

neil craig said...

What we need is some heavy enforcement of the law. Possibly some police unit whose job is entirely to investigate these.

Send a number of people to jail, remove a few councillors, & MPs, & order by-elections, bring to trial the cabinet ministers who said not to fix the postal voting system because it would cost them votes (some very rich Tory could afford a private prosecution here).

At the moment the assumption is that unless the fraud is so large & blatant that it must have affected the result let it go. The opposite is what is needed - the game must not be worth the candle.