Friday, May 07, 2010

The Election. What went wrong?

The UK held a general election on 6th May 2010 but things didn't quite go as smoothly as expected.

here in the UK we've grown accustomed to feeling smug about how 'we hold elections properly' and smile at the feeble efforts of other countries where there are complaints about vote rigging and people being denied their right to vote. "It could never happen here," we say. Except it did!

Today's news is full of stories about people who went to vote, stood in a queue for an hour or more only to be denied their right to vote when the polling stations closed at 10:00pm. Some people were even in the building but because they hadn't been given a ballot paper by 10:00pm they didn't get to vote.

That wasn't my problem though. I arrived earlier at 18:45 and passed the clerk my voting card only to be told that it's number had already been marked off the lists as having already voted.

The clerk phoned someone to ask procedure and after about 15 minutes got a call back to say I was to be given a pink voting slip and that it and my electors card were to be sent in in a sealed envelope rather than put in the ballot box. Hardly a secret ballot.

I asked the clerk that I be informed of the result of the enquiry that would be made about this.

I told the clerk that I had lived at my address for two years but this was the first time I had voted in an election there (I was away in previous council elections).

It seems to me there are three possibilities:
1. That the clerks made an error and both crossed off the wrong number on their lists.
2. That the number on my electors card for some reason was duplicated
3. That someone had given in my name and address and had 'stolen' the vote.

Let's assume that the first scenario happened. There were two clerks checking the electors lists for each voter. Is it likely they both got it wrong? Only if they were copying each other's work - surely that would be poor procedure.

How about the second scenario? I've seen the electors list used and didn't spot a duplicate - neither did the two clerks.

What about the third possibility? I asked the clerks what happened to the lists they marked the voters off on and got an evasive answer. It seems to me that these lists should NOT be allowed to fall into anyone's hands since knowing who did not vote in elections would allow someone to impersonate that person in a new election. I was surprised to see the clerks giving back electors cards to voters. That hadn't happened in previous elections and I can imagine quite a few being added to street litter or deposited in bins outside the polling station from which they could be retrieved.

It seems to me that apart from a need to get more people through the system quickly there is also a need to tighten up security. I suggest at a minimum voters should be asked for proof of identity if they turn up at polling stations without their poll card.

On a lighter note I received an e-mail from David Cameron. Here it is:
You'll notice that the e-mail was sent to me at 12:24 am on Friday 7th May.
No wonder David didn't get a majority in parliament. He's been telling his supporters to go vote 2½ hours AFTER the polls closed!

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