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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tories to copy US voter suppression tactics

Measures used in some Republican controlled US states such as Florida of introducing barriers to voting for ethnic minorities and poorer communities have been in place for some considerable time, with decisive effects in close elections. That, together with the disproportionate electoral college, undermines claims by the USA to be a model of good democratic practice.

Now it seems that the Tories want to bring similar restrictions into play in the UK which, when combined with the boundary reviews, could see them entrenched in power for some time to come. As the Guardian reports, plans to trial a requirement for voters to present an ID at the polling station could prevent millions of people from voting.

Putting to one side the almost inevitable nightmare of hundreds of voters turning up at the polling stations without photo IDs, being sent away and not bothering to return, there is the larger problems that a significant proportion of the population do not even own such an ID. In fact many will not even be able to put their hands on a utility bill due to the fact that they live in rented or shared accommodation or are reliant on meters.

The Electoral Commission say that 3.5 million electors or 7.5% of the electorate, would have no acceptable piece of photo ID. Under the government’s proposals, these voters would either be denied a vote entirely, or in other trial areas, required to produce multiple pieces of ID. The vast majority of these voters will be from poorer communities or ethnic communities, not natural Tory voters.

These proposals are all the more suspicious because as the Electoral Reform Society's chief executive, Katie Ghost says: “There is simply no evidence to suggest that electoral fraud is widespread across the UK. Where it has occurred it has been isolated and should be tackled locally." In other words there is no justification for these trials.

What is more worrying is the thought that there is a hidden agenda at work here. The question has to be asked what happens if the trials show a marked fall in turnout as a result of the requirement to present an ID?  Will the idea be abandoned or will the findings be used as an excuse to reintroduce the idea of universal ID cards.

This is not a government which respects human rights or civil liberties. My betting is that universal ID cards will be back on the agenda sooner rather than later.
As I previously posted, some of the worst cases of voter and electoral fraud seem to have come from right-wing parties, and they have the effrontery to portray this as a problem endemic within left-wing parties. Here are some well known Ukip and Tory fraudsters.

May 2009. Tory Cllr Eshaq Khan, was jailed for a fraud involving "ghost" postal votes. He was sentenced to 3 and a half years in prison.

July 2010. Mohammed Saghir, the former Conservative councillor in Calderdale has been found guilty of election fraud at Bradford Crown Court. Saghir, 63, of Gibbet Street, Halifax, applied for five proxy votes in other people’s names in the May 2008 local election.

August 2106. Cllr Richard Smalley, Tory, Derby, given a two-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to electoral fraud.

Hugh Mennie UKIP Council candidate in Cambridgeshire Fined £110 plus costs, and disqualified from the election process for five years. Forging signatures on his nomination form 2013

Richard Wilkins UKIP Candidate in Isle of Wight Disqualified from the election process for five years for forging signatures on his nomination form 2013

Cllr Matthew Smith UKIP Councillor Norfolk County Council.
UKIP candidate for Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner.
UKIP Parliamentary candidate in Great Yarmouth
Charged with 7 counts of supplying a nomination paper to a returning officer knowing it to contain a forged signature and 3 counts of producing forged nomination papers. Sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work and disqualified as a county councillor 2014

April 2016. Steven Gillingwater, Ukip election agent in Slough, who later defected to the Tories, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing or permitting a false statement to appear in a nomination paper in relation to the Slough Borough Council local elections in May last year. The offences were committed between March 26, 2015 and May 9, 2015, and the 26-year-old was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment for each offence at Slough Magistrates' Court yesterday (Monday), to be served concurrently, suspended for 12 months.

Fraudulent behaviour, I'm afraid, is a problem in right-wing parties. I'm glad to say that very little of this sort of thing appears to be happening in Wales.
Welcome to the Tory Junta - we will not see another shade of Goverment in my lifetime. PS i'm 58.
Note that they are not proposing to follow many US states in enforcing a life-time voting ban on convicts: it would rule out too many Conservative voters. (It is a frequent observation that most career criminals are very conservative in their political views.)

It would be very difficult to argue that the postal voting system was not subject to electoral fraud if a dominant member of a household or a community were to put pressure on how their family or community voted.
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