The more I think about the way that we conduct our version of democracy, the more I become concerned about its lack of democracy. I have described in many previous blogs, among other things, how first past the post leads to a minority government but my mind has now become occupied by seeming anomalies in postal voting during the 2019 General Election.
Before I carry on though, I am new to this and don’t really have a knowledge of how postal voting has worked in previous elections, nor do I have any evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation. I do however, have anecdotal evidence of odd things going on, sufficient to make me interested and investigate more.
What I have learned is that the postal voting system is a bit convoluted, not very but a bit more than voting at a polling station. The argument is that fraud is easier by post and so higher levels of authorisation are required. I’m not sure about this but there you go.
About 85% of people who ask for a postal vote end up using it. Rejection Is between 2-3% which means that 250,000 votes get turned away, a much higher percentage than people who get turned away at the polling station. Any vote that doesn’t get cast is one too many in my opinion.
What can we do then? I suspect that people ask for a postal vote as, in the main, they are not going to be able to get to the polling station on the day. Interestingly it could be argued that postal voting distorts what we know as democracy in that you have to cast your vote ahead of polling day. If this is the case why not allow people to vote in person as soon as the candidates are announced and polling cards published.
To do this we need to create a national electoral roll. Local ones already exist. You would apply for a postal vote in the normal manner and be given a unique ID number (or perhaps QR code). Up to and including the day before the vote you can go to any local authority building, that has officers present and ask to vote. The officer will ask your name, address, unique ID and you can cast your vote there and then and put it in the envelope, hand it to the officer who will post it to a central clearing house.
The officer will also mark on the system that you have voted and the system will be able to report to the relevant Returning Officer all of the votes that are to be expected. This should lead to zero rejections for those people that make it to a local authority building and will provide proof that votes cast are counted. This will not remove the need or all postal voting but should reduce significantly the level of rejection that we have seen.
This is only one idea but shows that, when we put our minds to these issues there are solutions. We need to start from the premise however, that any vote that isn’t cast is one too many.