Service Voting - Op STEEL VOTE 2010

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by hackle, Jan 26, 2010.

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  1. It's that time again!

    Hard to believe that five years have gone by since the start of our last campaign to encourage serving personnel and their partners to make sure they are registered to vote, and then exercise their own voting choice.

    BAFF, ARRSE and the Service Voting Campaign of 2005

    Hard to believe that some of the troops serving the country in Afghanistan, and eligible to vote for the first time in a General Election, were only 13 or 14 at the time of the last Service Voting campaign.

    Apologies to all those who since 2005 have suffered death by PowerPoint on the subject of electoral registration. It's our fault I'm afraid! Now is the time to start thinking about putting all that exciting electoral knowledge into practice. Even if you are serving at the arrse end of beyond.

    Unlike last time round, there are things being done about service voting in the General Election, so do watch this space, and the BAFF website at

    Sadly we will have to manage this time without the fantastic support of the late Lib Dem defence spokesman and retd Air Marshal Lord Tim Garden - tgarden on ARRSE. However, I can confirm that the campaign is supported by members of each of the major political parties - and no doubt by other politicians as well - and by the three service family federations and by BAFF.

    Member of the Armed Forces (or husband, wife, civil partner)
  2. from a House of Lord debate on 19 Jan about Postal Voting:

    [Hansard source]
  3. elovabloke

    elovabloke LE Moderator

    Is BAFF convinced that the scheme will work within the existing time scale considering the problems at the air head when additional pressures are placed on them.
  4. General Elections – Votes that count

    Danish Soldiers...................Yes
    Canadian soldiers................Yes
    American soldiers................Yes
    British soldiers......................No
    French soldiers...................Yes
    German soldiers..................Yes

    If you think our British soldiers/sailors/airmen deployed in Afghanistan (and elsewhere overseas) should have a direct vote in the choice of those who govern them, sign the petition at:

    Service personnel and their families stationed overseas are effectively disenfranchised by our electoral system. They are advised by the Ministry of Defence to vote by proxy. Voting by secret ballot in person in the UK is not an option for most overseas personnel. Postal votes are, because of electoral tight time scales and logistical challenges, unlikely to get back in time to count. Other nations are able to provide their military community, serving abroad, with effective secret ballots. It is now time for our Government to provide the same opportunities for the British Service communities overseas.
  5. elovabloke

    elovabloke LE Moderator

    Very behind the times however there have been problems in the past getting the necessary paper mountain out but the saying - "you can take a horse to water" also kicks in at times.
  6. Lets hope the horse does kick in. The proposal of using supply flights to take postal ballots to and from the troops in Afghanistan is not guaranteed and there is nothing on the table to address the other 35,000+ military personnel and families living overseas. Sign the petition and and pass this on!
  7. No one - certainly not me - will guarantee that an individual vote will get back in time to be counted. The argument goes that no other system is absolutely guaranteed either, and that the reasonable possibility of voting by post would be better than no possibility at all for those not in a position to appoint a proxy.

    I welcome the Government's acceptance - as indicated in the Hansard quote - of the case we have been making all along that proxy voting is fine for some but is not a realistic option for a significant number of armed forces personnel.

    It would be interesting to hear what those in theatre or who have served there recently think about this, and whether you would consider using a postal vote from Afghanistan if there was a reasonable prospect (never guarantee) of it getting back in time to be counted.

    Yes, as I understand it this proposal is for Afghanistan only and I appreciate that raises a raft of new questions.
  8. BAFF is not behind this petition, but I recognise the name of the petition creator and I believe that the petition is particularly well crafted. Calling for a change in Government policy does not necessarily mean that work is not already taking place on some issues with a view to inclusion in the next tranche of electoral legislation, which is what happened after the 2005 General Election.

    I reckon that the petition should add strength to the arm of those already working now for further changes in electoral legislation, and increase the pressure on Government and Parliament after the General Election. Therefore I was very happy to sign the petition myself.
  9. Thank you for signing the petition. The men and women in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces serve overseas in the interests of the government and are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

    In 2005 the Iraqi nationals living in UK had more chance of their postal votes counting in their national elections than the British troops in Iraq had of their postal votes counting in the 2005 general election.

    As the 2010 general election looms on the horizon yet again are British troops overseas being denied their democratic right to a direct vote in the choice of those who will govern them. Other countries are able to provide their military personnel serving abroad with the means to exercise their right to a secret vote.

    A better solution needs to be found by the government if it is to enfranchise Service personnel and would really show the government’s commitment to honouring their Armed Forces personnel and their families overseas by ensuring that they can exercise their democratic right to vote by secret ballot from overseas.
  10. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    Out of curiousity, why can't the votes of deployed personnel be counted in theatre and the results sent to the relevant constituency?
  11. Your suggestion would be one way of solving the problem. The government would need to bring in the legislation to allow any change to the current system.
    There are several ways other countries enable their troops serving abroad to vote. Some set up polling stations wherever their military are based; others allow a decent amount of time between dispatch of postal ballots and polling day.
    Our electoral system means that we are stuck with a very narrow time frame, in most cases leaving insufficient time for postal ballots to get back in time to count, unless you happen to be based in UK.
    Feel free to sign the petition!
  12. Can we assume that there is a contingency plan to surge extra Posties and possibly a flight to facilitate the election.

    We normally have plans to cater for Xmas and the date of the next election is hardly un-predictable at this stage.
  13. Fair question. One objection would be that with a comparatively small number of voters in each constituency with BFPO forwarding addresses, it would be possible to link individuals with their voting choices. It would need legislation, as votes4all says, and perhaps a disproportionate amount of organisation and staffing in relation to the number of votes.

    The short UK electoral timetable is a major factor, and there would be constitutional implications to any change. Some countries get round this by having a separate count for out-of-country votes after the main vote has been counted, but there are obvious objections to that also.
  14. My understanding is that BFPO do pull out the stops now, but however hard they work to facilitate postal votes they are constrained by when the postal ballots are actually put into the postal system. According to the Electoral Commission your ballot paper may be sent as late as four working days before election day, or three working days in Scotland. (Check this out on the
    Is that enough time for postal votes to get to and from theatre or anywhere else overseas?
  15. Fair point - 3/4 days isn't enough for a reasonable attempt to be made, so it would seem pointless for Posties to bust a gut.

    It is worth noting that this sort of timescale effectively eliminates most of the expat communities around the world.

    It does seem that other countries make a serious attempt to let their expat community vote. If third world countries can set up voting facilities in London and other cetres of their nationals, why can't the UK do it. Most UK Embassies and Consulates seem to do sod-all to help their citizens - they could fire themselves up every few years to provide a ballot