Op SERVICE VOTE 2...no repetition of Silence in the Ranks

#1
Some years ago there was a highly effective campaign run by Hackle which (I think) went by the name of Op SERVICE VOTE. The culmination was the production of a paper called Silence In The Ranks which highlighted the widespread electoral disenfranchisement of Armed Forces personnel.

Some may conclude that this is to the government's advantage (given the natural conservatism and traditionalism of the Armed Forces and the fact they have been shafted year after year after year at the same time as fighting two vicious wars). Some may also conclude that the same situation could happen again.

Effectively, a warning order is in place for a general election in the Autumn or Spring of next year. However, this could happen at any time.

How confident are we all in Armed Forces electoral registration, given the difficulties in the past - notwithstanding the excellent work done in raising the issue??

How confident are we that those fighting for democracy will have a chance to practice it??

How confident are we that there are no nasty "surprises" in, for example, the summer recess rush of legislation??
 
#2
This was in the Times letters today. I think it says it all.

July 22, 2009
Overseas voters
If anyone in the UK deserves the right to their own vote it is our Service personnel and their families

Sir, General Sir Richard Dannatt was recently lambasted by politicians for commenting on political matters. British Service personnel and their families who are posted overseas (and those serving on operations) experience such vast difficulties voting that they are effectively disenfranchised — a bizarre situation when one considers that servicemen and women are fighting to give the Afghan people the vote but are unable to vote themselves.

The current voting system allows only 11 days, inclusive of weekends, from the point at which candidates’ names are confirmed, to printing in the UK, delivery of papers and posting to the overseas destination and back to the chosen constituency. It simply does not work for those serving overseas.

The alternative proxy vote is exceptionally unpopular and unacceptable. While the system is under review by the Ministry of Justice it will not be in time for 20 per cent of army personnel serving overseas (excluding those on operations) to vote in the next general election.

It is an outrage that they are unable to vote. If anyone in the UK deserves the right to their own vote it is our Service personnel and their families. Enabling their vote for the forthcoming election should be a priority.

Catherine Spencer

Director, Army Families

Federation Germany
 
#3
Does it really matter? They are all losers and no matter who gets in, they will do so by lying and will then ignore the country's wishes until just before the next election.
 
#4
Who says there's going to be an election?

Swine flu is now deemed to be a bigger threat than terrorism so it might not be a good idea to have such large gatherings of people out & about. The current Government have the experience to continue in power until the threat is gone...
 
#6
CaptainPlume said:
Who says there's going to be an election?

Swine flu is now deemed to be a bigger threat than terrorism so it might not be a good idea to have such large gatherings of people out & about. The current Government have the experience to continue in power until the threat is gone...

And the Civil Contingencies Act (given to us by Saint Tony of B'Liar), allows the PM to suspend or extend Parliament is such circumstances.
 
#7
CaptainPlume said:
Who says there's going to be an election?

Swine flu is now deemed to be a bigger threat than terrorism so it might not be a good idea to have such large gatherings of people out & about. The current Government have the experience to continue in power until the threat is gone...
If only you were kidding. Gordon no doubt has his fingers crossed that this will provide the 'heroic comeback' he no doubt envisages. Sad old man that he is.
 
#8
A briefing note was produced by the Parliamentary Library. A copy is here.

Of interest:

The Times had reported on 21 September that the leaflets were to be sent out to service personnel and that all units would have to appoint an officer responsible for service voting.
Commons consideration of Lords amendments took place on 13 June 2006. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Bridget Prentice, explained the provisions in the Government’s amendment. The methods by which Service voters would be kept informed of relevant information were also outlined:

It is part of a package of measures to aid the registration of service personnel that includes closer co-operation between the officer in each unit responsible for electoral registration and the ERO. The MoD will issue every new entrant to the armed forces with an electoral registration form, and it will run campaigns during the annual canvass for service personnel whose service declaration is about to expire. Members of the armed forces will receive reminders in their payslips about the need to register to vote and information such as website addresses and so on. Future campaigns will include a service “Registration Day”, which will act as a focal point. Unit registration officers will be pro-actively using all appropriate measures to remind and inform service personnel and their families both of the requirement to register to vote and of the way in which they can do so.
The Service Voters’ Registration Period Order 2006 was debated in the Delegated Legislation Standing Committee on 6 November 2006. The Order changes the period of time that members of the forces (and their spouses or civil partners) who have made a service declaration and are registered or entitled to be registered, from a period of 12 months to a period of 3 years. The order came into force on 1 January 2007.
Unit Registration Officers (UROs) were appointed in all units to provide information about electoral registration and the Electoral Commission and the MoD provided additional resources such as posters and PowerPoint presentations to accompany the leaflets. An official ‘Service Electoral Registration Day’ was also held at every unit during October 2007 and October or November 2008.
Figures registered to vote in 2007 were apparently (from a survey sample):

RN: 81%
Army: 62%
RAF: 75%

At first glance, measures were apparently taken. It may be the case that all is ticking along smoothly and credit is due, it may be the case that this is a glossy exercise and no-one really cares, or it may be somewhere in between and requiring a nudge.

I'd suggest an "audit" over the summer recess and a renewed push in the autumn. Army figures are disappointing in particular (come on guys, even you can manage an X in a box :wink: )
 
#9
ferox_provincia said:
CaptainPlume said:
Who says there's going to be an election?

Swine flu is now deemed to be a bigger threat than terrorism so it might not be a good idea to have such large gatherings of people out & about. The current Government have the experience to continue in power until the threat is gone...

And the Civil Contingencies Act (given to us by Saint Tony of B'Liar), allows the PM to suspend or extend Parliament is such circumstances.
So it's not complete tinfoil hat stuff is it. The legislation is there...

Let's face it when the bird flu scare was around while there was planning (I know, I was part of it) there was not a blanket warning for the pregnant & infirm not to go out in public, detailed consideration of stopping large gatherings like sports events etc...

Perhaps we don't need to worry about Forces personnel or indeed anyone voting. After all the vote is not really part of Cool Britannia, has a lot to do with the forces of conservatism, and besides it really isn't sensible for novices like the electorate to get involved in challenging times when we have tose with experience at the helm...
 
F

fozzy

Guest
#10
MrPVRd said:
Figures registered to vote in 2007 were apparently (from a survey sample):

RN: 81%
Army: 62%
RAF: 75%

At first glance, measures were apparently taken. It may be the case that all is ticking along smoothly and credit is due, it may be the case that this is a glossy exercise and no-one really cares, or it may be somewhere in between and requiring a nudge.

I'd suggest an "audit" over the summer recess and a renewed push in the autumn. Army figures are disappointing in particular (come on guys, even you can manage an X in a box :wink: )
Agreed - lets make sure that this doesnt fall down the cracks.
Who do we "remind"?
 
#11
Mrs Spencer is to be congratulated on bringing the issue of postal votes for service personnel to notice, only four years after the campaign so ably managed by hackle first alerted the media and government to the problem.

Some progress has been made in drawing attention to the need to register, but the problem of postal voting has not been addressed - and it's not good enough to suggest that a proxy vote can be used; a postal vote is our right, and should not be taken away.
 
#12
I sent this letter to the Times today in the hope it may be published.

Sir
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by Catherine Spencer of The Army Families Federation in her letter of 22nd July. Although the MOD have made considerable progress during the Service Voters Registration campaign in encouraging service personnel to register, there remains considerable ground to cover in making it possible for them to vote. The creaking and tenuous supply lines to our overseas bases, and particularly Afghanistan, now puts service personnel in the position of not being able to receive, in a timely manner, the necessary papers in order to do so. Surely it is not beyond the wit of our political classes to devise a system to make it possible for those who fight and die for us to be able to cast a secret personal vote and, importantly, providing the necessary money and logistics to do so.
 
#13
Sir, General Sir Richard Dannatt was recently lambasted by politicians for commenting on political matters. British Service personnel and their families who are posted overseas (and those serving on operations) experience such vast difficulties voting that they are effectively disenfranchised — a bizarre situation when one considers that servicemen and women are fighting to give the Afghan people the vote but are unable to vote themselves.

The current voting system allows only 11 days, inclusive of weekends, from the point at which candidates’ names are confirmed, to printing in the UK, delivery of papers and posting to the overseas destination and back to the chosen constituency. It simply does not work for those serving overseas.

The alternative proxy vote is exceptionally unpopular and unacceptable. While the system is under review by the Ministry of Justice it will not be in time for 20 per cent of army personnel serving overseas (excluding those on operations) to vote in the next general election.
What is the fcuking point in having Electoral Registration Officers at units, running registration drives (etc) if those overseas can't vote anyway??

If we can fly out politicians at the drop of a hat, we can fly out voting papers and ballot boxes. Papers must be gathered from constituencies for each registered Service voter, sent to theatre within 24 hours along with ballot boxes so personnel can be stood down from operations to cast their vote in a general election, in an orderly manner (rather than everyone popping by on a Thursday), and the ballot boxes can be flown back to the UK and distributed in time for the count. It is that important!

Need to get manifestos out there as well and the party leaders should set out their stall as well, in theatre.
 
#14
this is something I have no experience of, as in my time all we had was the proxy vote.

Are you saying that only a proportion of service people are allowed to vote, or that they don't get to vote because of incompetence, papers not arriving etc.

On getting manefestos out to the troops, I think we should go further. question and answer sessions in the regiments with senior members of the different parties - of any party which wants to partake. Perhaps a session of Questiontime in one of the places.
 
#15
Are you saying that only a proportion of service people are allowed to vote, or that they don't get to vote because of incompetence, papers not arriving etc.

Yes there is increasing evidence that few if any serving voters and their families were able to vote in the last series of local and European elections. Papers are not arriving in time for service personnel to vote and return them. The position is well known and is well researched, however our political classes choose not to make that extra effort to ensure that those who are dying for democracy, on a daily basis, are given the very basic right of being able to choose who they die for. Coming from one of the oldest democracies in the world this is a scandal and needs special urgent measures to ensure that all service personnel are able to vote should they wish to.
 
#16
Whet said:
this is something I have no experience of, as in my time all we had was the proxy vote.

Are you saying that only a proportion of service people are allowed to vote, or that they don't get to vote because of incompetence, papers not arriving etc.

On getting manefestos out to the troops, I think we should go further. question and answer sessions in the regiments with senior members of the different parties - of any party which wants to partake. Perhaps a session of Questiontime in one of the places.
Proxy voting works fine for many people, and is the voting method you are encouraged to use if at all possible, if deployed overseas.

The main problem is that in order to use proxy voting, you have to have someone back in the UK who (a) you dont mind them knowing your voting choice (b) you can trust to use your vote according to your instructions and (c) can be relied on to vote on your behalf, whether by getting to the polling station on polling day, or by postal vote - in which case they have to arrange their own postal vote in order to vote on your behalf. Your Mum or whoever may not necessarily reside in the same constituency where you are registered to vote.

For some, a further objection to proxy voting is that it deprives them of the right enjoyed by all other voters to make a late voting choice based on their assessment of the election campaign by parties and candidates.

The need for proxy voting arises from the short timetable for UK General Elections. If the system changed in the future to fixed-term Parliaments (a whole new argument which I am not getting into here), it would be simple to change the election timetable to allow enough time to get in all the votes from overseas.

Many countries have longer election periods than us, and others get round the problem by allowing armed forces votes to be counted after the main count - a variation of this happened in the 1945 General Election - but there are objections to this also.

Electronic voting on base might be an answer, but then again...

I agree with you about getting manifestos out to the troops, and about holding "hustings" meetings for them, which however under current QR's could only be held off-base - perhaps not a practical proposition in some theatres!
 
#17
The need for proxy voting arises from the short timetable for UK General Elections. If the system changed in the future to fixed-term Parliaments (a whole new argument which I am not getting into here), it would be simple to change the election timetable to allow enough time to get in all the votes from overseas.

Many countries have longer election periods than us, and others get round the problem by allowing armed forces votes to be counted after the main count - a variation of this happened in the 1945 General Election - but there are objections to this also.

I agree with most of what hackle says however why is it necessary for our political classes to try to devise systems which will cater for the remote possibility of the Loch Ness Monster being hit by a stray satellite? This results is inertia and an excuse to do nothing. The armed forces would be a good starting point to pilot new systems of voting and to give up on our armed forces says a great deal about the health of democracy in the UK.
 
#18
I agree with you about getting manifestos out to the troops, and about holding "hustings" meetings for them, which however under current QR's could only be held off-base - perhaps not a practical proposition in some theatres!
:twisted: Quite like the idea of Brown canvassing in Helmand...

Following the ruling of Mr Justice Collins, could the failure to ensure the right to vote be a breach of troops' human rights?? This might delay any election outcome, so the government might not be too upset!!!

Again, if they can fly politicians and their entourages out to operational theatres, they can fly ballot boxes there and back.

The recess should be used for lobbying politicians, journalists etc to get this on the agenda right in time for the Queen's Speech.
 
#19
Surely some form of 'e' voting could be used?
Can't be that hard to organise, the hardware is there and didn't they use similar in the European elections?
 
#20
Whet said:
Are you saying that only a proportion of service people are allowed to vote, or that they don't get to vote because of incompetence, papers not arriving etc.
For the 2005 election the issue was registration. Previously Service personnel were automatically registered at their Unit’s location, although an individual could register to vote elsewhere. Just prior to the election the automatic registration was taken away, but information about registering not supplied until it was too late to do so in time for the election.

This time the issue is that the time between calling an election, candidates being announced & the poll is too short for Service personnel on Ops to be able to do so by anything other than a proxy vote.
 

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