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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Government fail at first hurdle

I am tempted to repeat my earlier refrain of "What is the Electoral Commission for?" but I appear to have found the answer. They exist so that Labour can ignore them.

That certainly appears to be the only possible conclusion from the Government's decision to cherry-pick a comprehensive and largely sensible raft of reforms proposed by the Commission in relation to postal voting.

The Guardian reports that the 45 proposals include the introduction of new offences to tackle mispractice, including making a fraudulent application for a postal or proxy vote, and clarification of the law on "undue influence". They are also suggesting individual registration on a form that includes the elector's date of birth and their signature. The Electoral Commission say that all-postal voting should not be pursued for use at future statutory elections or referendums in the UK, and the option of sending ballot papers automatically to every registered elector should not be pursued.

The Department of Constitutional Affairs however is not convinced on either individual registration or the abandonment of all-postal voting. There is every sign that they will only accept the recommendations they are comfortable with, putting Britain's democracy back on the critical list.

As a reminder of why reform is so important Labour Watch have an example of yet more problems in Birmingham, though not this time with postal votes:

Ballot box revelation sparks new votes row May 14 2005
By Paul Dale, Chief Reporter

The conduct of elections in Birmingham is under the spotlight again over allegations that a Labour party activist kept a ballot box and blank ballot papers in his home on the night before the General Election.

It is also claimed that Walyat Hussain personally took the box containing 800 completed votes to the General Election count at the National Indoor Arena after the close of polls on May 5, contravening official procedures.


Mr Hussain, a Labour member for more than 30 years, denies any wrong doing.His daughter, Shamim Akhtar, served as presiding officer at Broadway School on May 5.

Mr Hussain admits accompanying his daughter to collect the ballot box, blank ballot papers and electoral roll, but insists that the box remained in Ms Akhtar's house.

An investigation has been ordered by Lin Homer, Birmingham City Council chief executive and returning officer.A council spokeswoman said: "It is the responsibility of the presiding officer to deliver ballot boxes. We are investigating this case."
Peter this is very close to the wire - what exactly are you trying to infer in respect of either of these two people?
If one is also to infer that you favour individual registration, how do you recocile that with your militant opposition to identity cards?
Sorry, that should of course be "reconcile" ...
There is a huge difference David, between ID cards and individual registration. I do not even understand how you can equate the two.
Well the first step in an ID card scheme must be compile a national database of every single person aged over 18 legitimately resident in the country.

That is what individual registration must be about.

I'm in favour of individual registration in principle - in Wales most deprived ward, whose residents most need political representation, barely 50% of households had anybody registered to vote in the General Election - but I can see practical difficulties in how EROs would manage the job in practice.

I may be imagining this, but I think Northern Ireland has individual registration. It would be interesting to see how they go about it.
Yes, it is not the first step I object to (especially as such databases already exist in practice) but how that database is managed, what safeguards are in place to protect privacy and cross-referencing with other databases and the access to the databases and other personal information that an ID card will offer.
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