Political Promise

Damn it, I’m registered to vote

In David Brownsey-Joyce on October 5, 2010 at 7:00 am

David Brownsey-Joyce looks at the continued problems with the UK voting system as highlighted by Baroness Warsi.

Last week Baroness Warsi, chairman of the Conservative Party, gave an interview with the New Statesman talking about the issue of voter fraud within the electoral system and alleged that the Labour Party had benefited at the 2010 General Election to the tune of at least three seats, depriving the Conservatives of a majority government.

Well bully for her, she’s noticed a problem that most of us could see clearly before, but no one with the power to do anything about it wanted to acknowledge, the system where one person needs to register all members eligible to vote within their household either via post or online simply does not work anymore, as it is clearly open to misuse.

Once a year we all get that lovely letter from the council telling us to inform them of all adults above the age of 18 or those that will turn 18 before a certain date to avoid the dreaded canvassers, knocking on our door like door-to-door salesmen, taking down the details that we give them with no checks or validation, you could register your cat and no one would know the difference.

This has in my opinion become worse since drives to increase the student turnout has started to succeed, as evident at the 2010 General Election where we had mass cues, blamed in some areas on high student turnout; I’m sorry but isn’t that what we are aiming for, higher turnout. Students naturally move about, they often change accommodation part the way through their course and sometimes every year. If they move out after registering to vote in one place then realise they need to register in their new home then all of a sudden they are on two electoral registers, and two cards are going to pop through two boxes for the same person. This isn’t even intentional it just happens because we don’t have a flexible system in place that verifies against a national database with an identifying element.

The real problem, are those individuals who purposely register multiple individuals at a household to get multiple turns at the ballot box, and they are ruining it for all of us. We can’t do much about them once they have that election card in their hand, or cards as is more likely; we simply cannot have election monitors checking individual faces to make sure they haven’t seen them before, it just wouldn’t work and how you challenge them.

“I’m sorry sir but you look like this innocent young man who came into vote an hour ago, are you perhaps his evil twin?”

We don’t ask people to produce ID at the polls; we don’t even insist that they bring their election cards along. It is a system that cannot work with high turnout as the cues get too long and people get left behind, we rely on staff who are given long lists of streets and names not in any particular order. In a time of computers you would wonder if they had never heard of excel and sort via alphabet. However if people had to produce ID to vote at the polls, we would need to change voting to a week long period and set dates for individuals, sorting by alphabet. All in all we need to tackle the issue before it gets to the polling station which means a new system.

This is before we even get onto the problem with postal voting, anyone eligible to vote can apply for a postal ballot; the main problem cited whenever we hear about voter fraud. Anyone registered to vote can apply for a postal ballot and this only creates a far bigger problem.

However do not fear a response to this is on the cards and we can all hope that it works. So don’t worry all you people out there who want your vote to count and fear a naughty person’s fraudulent vote cancelling your one out, from 2015 or possibly sooner following Baroness Warsi’s outburst, you will all be individually responsible for registering and you will need to supply a national insurance number and corresponding date of birth to do so; hallelujah, now all we need to worry about are the professional fraudsters.

Ultimately there will always be those that seek to utilise voter fraud to their own devices, they will seek to circumvent any system that is put in place and the best way we can combat it is to have higher and higher, turn out; to make the numbers who do commit fraud so insignificant that they don’t create any problems.

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