Monday, 10 May 2010

Voting Reform



There has been much talk in the last 48 hours about voting reform and the type of reform which is necessary for every political party to be fairly represented in Westminster. The Libdems say reform is essential. They mention nothing about the process of voting - not a word.

But, what is the point in reform if the actual system is rotten?

In the past few days we've had international observers say our system is a 'recipe for corruption'. Most of us with an interest in politics would agree. We have a postal voting procedure which is abused and continues to be abused because no one is accountable.

Jenny Watson (pictured above) is the chairman of the Electoral Commission, a quango set up by Tony Blair, and it was her job to ensure the vote could run smoothly. Ms Watson earns £100,000 for a three day week as head of the election quango and is what I would dub a 'quangoite' - she has noved from quango to quango fronting, among others, the Equal Opportunities Commission, where she earned her 'Modern Militant' epithet. She's a seasoned 'it wasn't me' individual. '"We provide guidelines but the responsibility for the organisation of elections rests with returning officers," she twitters.

Each of the five returning officers in charge of polling stations where people were denied their right to vote earn from £112,956 to £227,500 per annum.

David Monks, chief executive of Huntingdonshire District Council, said a large surge in voters was one factor, but argued that extra staffing at polling stations would not have helped because each station had just one register, with one person ticking off names. He said part of the blame was due to a high number of new returning officers with no experience in running elections. "It is not something you can learn from a book." If these officials are unable to learn a new procedure they shouldn't be in the job. I'm sure most of us could learn the system with a little effort and some consultation with those more experienced.

What needs to happen is that we must have some form of identity to be provided with a ballot paper. Secondly postal voting should be stopped except in the most exceptional cases which, as it used to be many years ago, are supported by medical evidence as to why the voter cannot attend in person.

In part of my source article Heather Brooks gives an account of her investigations into election officials. One of her disturbing findings was that officials charged with compiling electoral registers and running elections were accountable to no one. You can read her discoveries (found out only through FOIs) here.

Politicians can talk all they like about STVs, AV, AVplus and any other reform they like but none will be democratic or free of fraud or incompetence until we have the people in charge of the whole process of elections accountable to the electorate. Only then is it worth spending time on reform.

There are far too many highly paid officials within government and arms of government who are responsible to no one. This culture must change before we can be called a fair society.

The present desire of the Libdems to have STV in the country is not in the interests of the country, it is only in the interests of smaller parties. What they should be pushing for is a complete reform of the whole system. That's in the interests of the country.


22 comments:

Ruth said...

A rather unfortunate photograph - doesn't exactly give the impression of hard working & professional does it?

Witterings From Witney said...

Well said lass - nice post!

Quiet_Man said...

Agreed, total reform, not just a fiddling with the system used to count the votes is the key for the future.

Jim Baxter said...

'until we have the people in charge of the whole process of elections accountable to the electorate'

Aren't they accountable in law? If so, where is the law? If not, why not?

Antisthenes said...

If this is the lady from the electoral commission who was interviewed by the BBC and gave her excuse as why people were locked out and electoral registered were not up to date and insufficient ballot papers available was because the system was overburdened and antiquated. Then she needs sacking as Nick Robinson quite rightly beside himself pointed out previous larger turnouts had not put the system under strain.

To my mind she is the epitome of the corrupt incompetence that is so prevalent in todays society.

subrosa said...

It's the only one I could find Ruth.

It suggests she's rather a laid back woman and untouchable doesn't it.

In my profession I would never have considered posing for such a photo, but then I'm of a generation where dignity and professionalism ruled.

subrosa said...

Thanks QM, I'm glad to have your support.

subrosa said...

Many thanks WFW. x (maybe that's overdoing it lol)

subrosa said...

Nope Jim, they're not accountable. Have you read Heather Brooke's account?

subrosa said...

Completely agree Antisthenes. But, as we know, the electoral commission (set up by Tony Blair) is accountable to no one. They have no authority and no accountability.

They are an expensive quango and a place for labourites to make a fortune at our expense.

Leg-iron said...

I'd call her ugly, but as stunt double for Davros I don't think I can. Besides, it's what inside that counts and that looks very ugly indeed.

What I can do is imagine the influence of postal vote fraud in a proportional voting system. It would be much more effective than it is now.

Mad Dog McClane said...

She is not a quangoite. She is a quango-whore. There are too many of them around.

Pardon my French.

subrosa said...

LI I didn't intend the photo to be a beauty contest. In fact I perhaps would have looked far better at her age. It was her stance for a public photograph which expresses a great deal.

Postal voting ought to be stopped. That's it.

subrosa said...

Hello John. A much better title indeed. There are thousands around, both male and female.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

Quite right, SR. Except I don't see why this qango should take the blame. If their role is to draw up guidelines and those guidelines weren't followed (I'm speculating here) and a consequence was the problems experienced then shouldn't it be the returning officers? Shouldn't they be dismissed?

subrosa said...

The whole lot should be dismissed and an open and transparent organisation brought in IPP. One which was completely responsible, both legally and ethically for the process.

Dark Lochnagar said...

Mind you Rosie, if people took their democratic responsibilities a bit more seriously and didn't go to the pub until 9.30 and then turn up on mass, things might have gone a bit more smoothly.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

It's interesting how even the simple exercise of placing a vote is now being questioned as to the integrity of the system.

Are we being paranoid? Or has there always been these discrepancies and it's only now through the information revolution that we are beginning to be aware of them? And are these machinations being imported from the big boy of democracies, America?

Queries regarding postal voting and voting registers were evident in both of Bush's elections.

On his second term it was noted the difference between polling booths in Republican to Democratic areas. Republican booths were strategically placed so the busy execs could vote in minutes, whereas the Democrat areas had people queueing for hours? And in both of his elections doubts were expressed on the validity of the postal votes - first Florida, second Missouri.

Perhaps Blair was given the secrets of election rigging as part of the dividends for backing Bush in Iraq?

But these suspicions have in part to be offset by the lack of foul being cried by the smaller parties.
Is that because there is no foul play; or its a known that just has to be accepted if you want to play against the big boy's?

21st century and democracy seems to be degenerating by the minute.

subrosa said...

Dl, a friend of mine in Manchester heard that the hold up down her way was because students decided to vote late. The rumour there is that they had problems remembering their address and - wait for it - some even forgot their names. :)

subrosa said...

I don't think we're being paranoid RA. The changes in the postal voting system have only been introduced since labour took office in 97. Until then you needed a note from your GP to say you were unable to attend the polling station.

The percentage of postal votes has increased steadily over the past 13 years to the extent that the numbers could well be crucial.

It is an American thing. Labour employ an Irish company to oversee their postal voting (I wrote about that last year) and they get their money's worth.

Like you I don't understand the lack of foul from the smaller parties. Maybe labour can somehow 'hide' the evidence. Who knows.

There is definitely something unhealthy about postal voting, that's for sure.

Dark Lochnagar said...

I think that illustrates my point that they had been in the pub!

subrosa said...

I don't think she meant it that way DL. I think she was meaning they'd been told to go and vote - anyway, anyhow. If you get my meaning. :)

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