Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Only secret ballots are democratic

Monday's Guardian article describing widespread fraud associated with postal voting has again focused concern on the problems with postal voting. What amazes me is not that fraud is going on but that those abusing the system have been so blatant about it that they have been caught. The secret ballot ensures that bribery and intimidation is next to impossible. This is because there is no way that anyone offering a bribe can ensure that that the bribee didn't actually vote for someone quite different. With a postal ballot blank ballot papers can be handed over for sums of money and the cross can be filled in by the buyer. The lack of safeguards is quite breathtaking. One women turned up to the polling station to be told she could not vote because someone had cast a postal ballot in her name. Monday's Guardian on page 4 tels how her father argued with the presiding officer only to be told there was not even a procedure for her to make a complaint. The lack of safeguards is quite rational tho. Postal voting is so open abuse that it relies on people being too honest to abuse the system. Well it is clear now that British people are not above such electoral fraud. Every time a vote is sold or someone votes the way they have only because a member of their family has stood over them while they filled in their ballot paper to ensure they voted the right way then all honest voters are defrauded.

Safeguards are a smokescreen. The postal ballot is not a secret ballot and needs to abolished. It's also clear that we need extra safeguards at polling stations. Index fingers dipped in purple ink may well not be over doing it.

More sensible reforms can be found on the Delyn Democracy blog.

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