One of my photos

Postal votes confusion

April 21st, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

This is an example of a postal vote ballot form, correctly delivered (and correctly filled out). It could be a bit of a rarity in Crawley. Its also proof that I did vote for the Mrs.

Apparently there have been reports of postal votes being sent out with no ballot paper in, two ballot papers in, or a ballot paper for the wrong ward.

By coincidence the wards affected are the three which are considered by all parties to be the most marginal – Southgate, Ifield and Broadfield South.  It is possible that they may have to be re-printed in a different colour and re-issued, with any originals received just discounted.  Will recipients of the new one just throw it away because they think they have already voted? What about someone who uses their original postal vote, and then goes on holiday before the new one arrives?

If any of these seats are won and lost by a handful of votes (Southgate's majority last time was 3 votes) it could be that just a few confused voters could have decided it.  If any ward is as close as Southgate this time I would not be surprised to hear calls for a re-run.

I really like voting by post myself. It is convenient and if anything happened near polling day I would not be prevented from voting[*]. Although its a lot easier to get a postal vote now, it is still not as widespread as it could be and cock-ups like this do nothing to increase confidence in the system.

As a party activist I will admit that the increase of postal voting does make a lot of the old campaigning techniques redundant: why announce something brilliant a few days before the election if half the floating voters have already voted for example?  I guess it can help a bit too if you are organised enough to know how many of your supporters have postal votes you can make assumptions about the rest of the postal voters and estimate how hard you need to work on election day itself – but most people tend to work as hard as they can anyway, so its a very theoretical advantage.

[*] This happened to me in 1992.  At that time you had to give notice a long time before an election that you required a postal vote and had to provide proof that you needed it – as opposed to now where you just have to want it.  I had to go to Sweden on business a week before the election, and stay there for two weeks. I asked about getting a postal vote and it turned out that the deadline had passed – but I had been on another business trip to America at the time.  I was a bit peeved, but all the duty frees made it a bit easier to take.

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