Electoral Regulations

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Infiltrator, Apr 20, 2008.

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  1. OK, Maybe I'm being a bit thick here, but I always thought that your vote in this country is a private and, if you want, secret thing.

    Now I understand about exit polls, and if you choose not to tell anyone who you voted for then you are quite within your rights not to do so, but the bit that goes into the ballot box was secret and could not be revealed or traced. That goes to the heart of democracy.

    Now then, I and my wife are entitled to vote in the London Mayoral elections. As my wife is going to be out of the country we applied for postal votes.

    This is the first time I have voted by post, so it's all been a bit of a revelation. As part of the postal vote pack you have a declaration to make on a slip of paper. It has your details on it, you have to add your date of birth and your signature. On it is a bar code that identifies you.

    Along with that are three ballot papers. One for the mayor, one for your local representative and one for something else...can't really remember that bit. However, on each of those papers is a number that corresponds to the bar code on the signature slip.

    Now, I'm not saying that I am proposing to vote for the BNP or anything....indeed, I'll discuss my politics whith whoever wants to know, but lets just say that I chose to do so. It would not take very many man hours to sort out all the postal ballots that voted for the BNP or anyone else that someone, somewhere decided, to be identified down to a person. In short the powers that be could, if they so desired, know exactly how everybody voted.

    Now, have I misunderstood the voting principles in this country or does this mean that how we vote either is or can be monitored to see if it fits in with how we should be voting? Isn't this only one step away from how Mugabe sorts out who votes for him?
  2. Correct and if i found a ballot box in the street i could go down the town hall ask to see the Electrol roll and put name and address to that vote

  3. There would have to be a change in the law for a malign government to be able to see who voted in whatever way.

    With normal voting the ballot boxes are kept locked until the count. At the count - with representatives from whichever party watching (including the candidates) - the boxes are unlocked, divided into bundles and then handed to tellers to count. The tellers divide into parties (and voided votes) and count into batches, these batches going to other tellers to be counted up. The tellers are not allowed to record the electoral roll numbers - they are watched by party representatives - and those representatives are not allowed to record anything (they are watched by officers and tellers).

    With regards to postal votes.

    Voters are given two slips and two envelopes. The voting slip is filled in and placed in the first envelope, the identifying slip is signed and placed in the second envelope. the first envelope is then placed in the second envelope, sealed and sent off.

    When the envelopes are received at the council offices they are stored under lock and key until a pre-determined date (I think it is a week before the election date). Then the outer envelopes are opened and the identifying slips placed in a reader which checks the signature against one which was supplied earlier.

    If it fails the computer flags it up and the operater compares the image of both signatures manually. If the operater fails it then the form is kicked and the Electoral Officer checks the actual signature on the identifying form against the actual one supplied earlier. He will also check to see if the voter has supplied evidence that they may be unable to replicate their signature (parkinsons sufferers or people with arthritic hands for example). If the signatures are still not tallying and there is no reason for it then the voting slip inside the first envelope is voided.

    Those voting slips that pass the process are then counted in a somewhat similar process as above but in council offices. The same checks to stop voters being identified are followed.

    Once the count is over and winners declared the voting slips are sealed and put away, ready to be recounted in future years if accusations of impropriety are laid. To break the seals and look at the slips without due authorisation is illegal.

    I hope that allays Your fears, Infiltrator
  4. the way I understand it is that every ballot paper has a reference number which can be cross referenced to the voter. When you enter the polling station you hand in your card and a note is made of the ballot paper you are given. I suppose it gives some way of accounting for the slips(?)
    Unless the ballot papers are destroyed directly after counting, a paper trail remains for anybody ( in authority) to trace who you voted for.
  5. Sven,

    Thanks for the authoritative answer, but to be honest, no, it doesn't allay any fears at all.

    I can fully understand why the signature slip has to be numbered and then traceable, but not the ballot papers themselves. To say that a change in the law would be needed is simply not good enough.

    We live under a government that changes laws all the time. For me the key one was a change in the system of jurisprudence that has been in force since Magna Carta, namely that of double jeopardy. I fully appreciate that public feeling was running high in the wake of the Lawrence affair but that was no reason to change a system that had been in force since 1215, even before if you go back to the Norman Conquest, and had served the country well. Admittedly, it did allow a minority of scrotes to get away scott free, but it prevented the misuse of police and state powers against an individual.

    Also who on earth would have thought that laws brought in to allow tracking of terrorists would lead to councils spying on people applying to get their children into a particular school.

    These are just the tip of many laws that, on the face of it, seem a good idea, but simply allow the misuse of power by the authorities (remember the grandmother reading out the names in front of Downing Street? What about the chap removed from the Labour party conference for daring to shout out about the war?) both of these instances and many more were dealt with under anti-terrorist legislation. I don't know about anyone else, but to me, it smack of the removal of free speech when it doesn't suit the Government.

    Does it bother me that my vote is traceable? I think that perhaps it does. Can we say with absolute certainty that the security services cannot get into these boxes to sort out what is going on? We all know that they are a law unto themselves. Is it possible, just possible, that someone could knock on your door at sometime in the future and ask if you did vote for UKIP in the May 08 election? "We only ask as we are investigating allegations of electoral impropriety." How would you feel if it were some burly policeman in plain clothes asking how you voted?

    All I am asking is whether these votes are traceable, and quite clearly they are. Now the question is should they be? Is it at all possible for this to be misused?
  6. IIRC the system was invented to prevent electoral jiggery-pokery, in that a returning officer with suspicions could track the caster of an individual ballot and ask them if that was really how they voted, or indeed find out if they were alive, eligible to vote and not a figment of some corrupt bastard's imagination.

    The only alternative method that's worked with any success is the public vote, and that was magged to grid for very good reason.
  7. That's right. Electoral corruption is an attack on our democracy and has been the subject of widespread public concern, including on this website. The additional identification requirements for "absent voting" (postal voting etc) were introduced under new legislation in 2006 to make such abuse more difficult.

    Even before the Electoral Administration Act 2006, individual ballot papers always carried a serial number which could in theory be used to identify individual voting choices. But the system is designed to prevent this happening.

    It remains an electoral offence for any presiding officer, returning officer, polling station clerk, candidate, election agent, polling agent, or any person attending at the count to breach the secrecy of the vote.
  8. Not so.

    As others have mentioned, each ballot paper is numbered. When you are given your ballot paper in the polling station, watch as the official records that number beside your name on his copy of the electoral register.

    In theory, a court order (not a change in the law) is required to unseal the annotated copy of the register. In practice, anybody with access to the ballot papers and the the registers can find out how anybody voted.

    Voting in Britain is far from secret. Fortunately, nobody much cares how other people vote and searching thousands of ballot papers would be more trouble than it's worth.
  9. And this is my point exactly. I agree that at present no one does much care to find out how you voted, but that's not to say it will stay that way. The point of the matter is that if the authorities want to know how you, as an individual voted, then they can find out with relative ease. Surely this is incompatible with living in a democracy.
  10. Or 'they' could just as easily install hidden cameras in the voting booth to record how each person voted. Sure it would be utterly illegal and incredibly complicated to link voting choices to individuals, but no more so than somehow getting hold of the ballot papers and combining the data and linking them to individuals.
  11. I've been working as a Presiding Officer for elections for years and this is the mosty common question ~ "if it's secret, why is there a code/number?"

    Following the 'count', the ballot papers are sealed. They are then stored in a bloody big safe, seperate from the stubs.

    As Ancient Mariner says, it takes a High Court order to examine the ballot papers after the 'count'. There has to be a call for a recount or serious accusation of corruption before the Returning Officer will make the recommendation to the legal system
  12. Thanks GSB, So I suppose that the answer that I am looking for is that it IS a secret ballot, unless someone in authority challenges it and makes it NOT a secret ballot. I think that is probably the best I am going to get.

    Now, having sorted that bit out, do you think that is the best way to do things? Is it not possible that some people may be influenced in the way that they vote knowing their their vote, however unlikely it may be, can be traced, if not now but in the future? I fully recognise that the legal system is there to try to prevent such things happening, however we are not talking anything that is beyond the realms of possiblity. It is possible that someone, somewhere wants to vote BNP or Respect or UKIP but doesn't purely due to the chance that they will be outed at some point in the future?
  13. Who voted for who would never be published or made public knowledge (otherwise all my votes for Screaming Lord Sutch will come back to haunt me)

    The idea is to make sure that you didn't vote twice, are actually still alive (I've seen that one) or that you actually were eligible to vote
  14. Basically, there's no system that can't be abused or corrupted if sufficiently determined people act in concert to do so. You just have to trust the electoral officials to do their job in just the same way as you have to trust that the police won't take the full ballot boxes in to 'protective custody' if the Home Secretary were to ask them to.

    Not a great deal of comfort in the current climate, I know...
  15. Just finished doing six months voluntary work in a political office (No party names, no pack-drill). The volunteer in charge of the postal voting applications, a retired Royal Navy captain, outlined to me various methods of 'cheating'. It can happen and I fear a 'Zimbabwe moment' in the coming mayoral election here in London. Just one little gem, one house applied for twenty votes! All with the same surname. No clues about the origin of the surname!!