Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The shape of things to come

So last night there was a Iain Dale Dirty Dozen link to a story about a postal voting problem in Blackburn
These mutilated ballots are all being rejected. All of them apart from those cast for the British National Party.

The reason for this is that torn ballots are rejected for lack of the 'official mark'. As this mark is printed at the top of the paper alongside the first party on the list, only the 'torn' postal votes for the top party are getting through. In the North West this is the BNP.

This has been picked up by our genius numbers guy and scrutineer Michael Poultney.

He reckons this could possibly amount to several hundred votes across the North West Region.
Today Uncle Craig is on the case and reckons that Michael Poultney broke election observer rules by watching and recording which parties had been voted for.
But party scrutineers are specifically banned from seeing where the "marked X" is when postal ballots are opened.

The rules on this are very strict and could not be clearer. Nobody is allowed to see how the postal ballots are cast until they are counted with the others - not least because at the opening of postal ballots, they are accompanied by signed forms identifying the voter.

This is the rule on opening postal ballots. It could not possibly be clearer:
candidates and agents should not make any attempt to see how any individual ballot paper is marked, nor make any attempt to take notes on how ballot papers are marked. In any event, all ballot papers will be kept with the voting side face down and so it will not be possible to see how the postal voters have voted See Chapter 5 para 15 of the Electoral Commission's Guide.
How then did Poultney know where the vote was on these ballot papers?
Thrilling stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

It highlights problems with making the voting system more complicated. Sure, the powers that be can change the way we elect our representatives to make the more representative, and incentivised to reporesent the people who voted for them, but anything that makes the system more complicated is going to cause problems.

Another day someone's going to have to do the sum's and figure out if the trade-off between First Past The Post, Single Transferable Vote, AV and PR in terms of fraud, and rejected and spoilt ballots against how 'representative' it is.

Do we really want the future to be like the Scottish elections in 2007?
Review under way on voting chaos

The Electoral Commission said it had begun "with immediate effect" an investigation into the Holyrood election voting chaos.

The polls have been hit by major problems with seven counts suspended and up to 100,000 ballot papers spoilt.

Technical failures, confusion about how to fill in ballot papers and problems with postal votes have all been blamed.
What to about Blackburn then?

Cancel the election there and hold another one as soon as the ballot paper has been redesigned. You can;t just soldier on, sometimes you gotta quid and return with integrity.

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