Thousands of Afghanistan troops face missing election vote

#1
Below is an article from yesterday's Independent about service voting from Afghanistan. The article quotes ARRSE so I trust the Independent won't mind us quoting their article in full.

I dont have figures yet but the estimate of thousands of the 9,500 force missing out on their vote - for one reason or another - is likely to be correct.

Couple of quick comments: The special arrangements for handling postal votes from Afghanistan have not been hurriedly made in the past month as some might think from the article; we want something far more radical but we still hope that this one-off exercise will enable more troops to vote than would have managed without it. We do not know how many have registered using the special registration form, but anecdotal reports so far from BAFF members in theatre is that availability of the form has been good.

The advice throughout has been to consider using a proxy vote if you can, but recognising that a proxy is not an option for many, hence these special arrangements to give people a much better chance than before (but no guarantee) of successfully voting by post. These arrangements do nothing, of course, to help service voters in Germany, Cyprus etc or at sea.

Thousands of Afghanistan troops face missing election vote. By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent. Friday, 9 April 2010

Thousands of British military personnel based in Afghanistan have been disenfranchised in the general election because they have not been registered and there remain massive problems in getting their postal votes back in time.

Only around 65 per cent of the 9,500-strong UK force in the country are registered to vote and many of these will have to be brought back from frontline bases in Helmand which are under daily Taliban fire.

The Independent revealed last month that the troops were in danger of losing their votes. The Ministry of Defence has now asked a council in Hampshire – Rushmoor – to handle the postal votes which do make it back to Britain and then get back to the constituencies by the time the polls close on 6 May.

Andrew Colver, who is running the operation for the council, acknowledged that counting the military votes in time is a daunting task and success is uncertain. “At the end of the day there are a number of operational issues which meant that the process cannot be guaranteed,” he said. “But we have done a lot of planning on this and I think we can make it work.”

Under electoral laws, postal votes could not be issued until the close of nominations, 11 days before the election date putting a huge strain on the task of sending out the ballot papers and getting them back on time. Julie McCarthy, of the Army Families Federation, said: “There are tremendous problems with postal votes. It would take up to 12 days to come back from Kabul, which sould have meant a person’s vote wouldn’t have counted.”

Some of the other Western countries with forces in Afghanistan have taken special measures for voting from the country to take place in their elections. The Canadians had sent out poll boxes with enough of a time gap to ensure that votes would not be delayed and US troops will vote on the internet during the mid-term elections later this year.

Neither of those options, however, were allowed under British electoral laws, forcing the Ministry of Defence to try and organise the postal votes at a particularly busy time, with the present brigade in Helmand being replaced by the next one – a huge undertaking in moving personnel and material when aircraft are in short supply and the “airbridge” between the UK and Afghanistan is under increased pressure.

A straw poll on the unofficial military website, ARRSE (Army Rumour Service), showed that 57 per cent of the troops said they would vote Conservative, with 7 per cent saying they would opt for Labour.

A cross-department government body was set up to consider how to deal with the problem of ensuring troops’ votes are counted. During a recent House of Lords debate, the Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Lord Bach, said it was possible to set up a scheme to deliver ballot papers to and from Afghanistan using supply flights but conceded: “I have to emphasise that operational priorities must prevail at all times and we cannot guarantee success.”

The chair of the Electoral Commission had urged Service personnel to use proxy votes. Jenny Watson said: “You can register to vote by post. But the tight timescale and logistical challenges involved in getting a ballot paper to you and back home again may make this an unrealistic option. You put your lives on the line for our country so make sure you have a vote on election day.”
WEB SOURCE
 
#2
Let’s hope some of the postal votes from Afghanistan get back in time to count.

Shame about those in Cyprus, Falklands, Iraq, Belize, Germany etc…trying to vote by post………
 
#3
And those of us on 3 week exercises over the election period so no chance of using postal vote or voting in person even though we are in the UK. What % of UK Armed Forces will actually be able to vote - once the overseas posted, operational, UK based but exercising are taken into account?
 
#4
I'm sure during the elections in 1945 the final announcements couldn't be made until all the service votes were in. This must have been a monumental exercise when you consider how we were scattered across the globe in huge numbers unlike today. Call me Mr Cynical!
 
#5
Speckled_Jim said:
And those of us on 3 week exercises over the election period so no chance of using postal vote or voting in person even though we are in the UK. What % of UK Armed Forces will actually be able to vote - once the overseas posted, operational, UK based but exercising are taken into account?
Indeed, and there was a time that postal services were available on any exercise. It would be useful to hear from anyone in uniform directly affected by this or any similar problem - internet access permitting!

I think reserve forces units are expected not to initiate training activities which might interfere with voting.
 
#6
In 1945 I think there was emergency legislation to delay the final count of ballots by three weeks to ensure most votes from overseas were counted.

Quite a simple solution really…………
 
#7
Drumbox said:
I'm sure during the elections in 1945 the final announcements couldn't be made until all the service votes were in. This must have been a monumental exercise when you consider how we were scattered across the globe in huge numbers unlike today. Call me Mr Cynical!
That's right. The period for getting in the votes was extended to allow this to happen. It helped that the forces had available logistic and transport resources following Victory in Europe.
 
#8
Come on - there has been more than enough time for people to set up a proxy vote. If people are not interested enough to do this, then they are not interested enough in voting. There is also a degree of CoC responsibility to ensure this is highlighted and I think that the CoC have done their bit. There are many ways an individual can enfanchise themselves. If they chose not to, then that is their faullt.
 
#9
Wooger,

Not everyone has a proxy. Many of the allies our troops serve alongside in Afghanistan have no problem facilitating the secret votes of their service personnel. Speaking to those from other nations it is an anathema that we are advised to vote by proxy once we step off UK soil.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
In this day and age we should have a way where a soldier can walk into a location and register a vote by elictronic mail
An officer can be present and each soldier already has a unique number that will identify him it shouldn't be hard

If we can move heaven and earth to make sure Afghans and Iraqi's can not only vote in their homeland but in Leeds, Birmingham and London we should be making sure the people who are defending the so called democracy in those countries are alowed a democtratic vote in their own country
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#11
I've seen, in Afghanistan, the preparations and systems used by both the USA and Canada to allow ALL their Service personnel to vote while in Theatre. ISTR that the Canadians did it over the course of a few days, to allow those on Ops to rotate in - not rocket science.

I presume the only reason we do not do this is because of Cost? For it is entirely possible - indeed relatively straightforward.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
OldSnowy said:
I presume the only reason we do not do this is because of Cost? For it is entirely possible - indeed relatively straightforward.
Or they don't want thousands of Bill Oddies voting against the Goverment of the day
Remember what happened to Churchill
 
#13
the_boy_syrup

Not only did the Iraqi’s arrange this year for their citizens to vote at polling stations in UK, for their national elections in Iraq, they arranged their Out-of-country Voting Programme to include an estimated 1.4 million nationals living in 16 different countries. They improved on the system used in the 2005 elections by allowing both registration and voting on the same day.

Quite amazing really ……….
 
#14
wooger said:
Come on - there has been more than enough time for people to set up a proxy vote. If people are not interested enough to do this, then they are not interested enough in voting. There is also a degree of CoC responsibility to ensure this is highlighted and I think that the CoC have done their bit. There are many ways an individual can enfanchise themselves. If they chose not to, then that is their faullt.
It looks increasingly likely (though by no means a certainty) that I will be back in the UK in time to vote. At the time I was deployed, over six months ago, the General Election was likely to be after after my unit returned - due to an extension of our deployment, most of my colleagues, even if registered for a postal vote, will be completely unable to exercise that right. As for Proxy voting, yes, it's an option, but not a particularly attractive one for many. Who do you get to cast your vote? So many of my friends are divorced that there is no wife or long-term partner to do this for them, and due to the nature of our employment, friends and family often do not live in the constituency where we are registered to vote. For me, it's not too big a deal, as I don't think that my vote would count for too much, considering the constituency in which I live, and the way I would be likely to vote. To put it another way, If my sitting MP did not keep his seat, regardless of any other results, it would be the main story in every paper.
 
#15
My very first post on ARRSE back in November last year:


Recently I wrote the following letter which was published in the Shropshire Star:
Soldiers don't ordinarily do politics, but it's abundantly clear now that having committed our forces to two major overseas conflicts, the government wilfully ignored military advice and wittingly neglected their medical, equipment, helicopters and troop reinforcement needs. Many a funeral cortege through Wootton Bassett might have been avoided, but for this wicked recklessness. There has never been a better argument for the radical simplification of voting procedures for the armed forces and their dependants. We've had quite enough flannel about how things are fine when actually, they're far from it. The fact is, that the ability of service personnel to register their votes is seriously impeded by bureaucracy. Equality and diversity legislation ensures that other sections of society receive fair consideration of their needs, so must our troops. Their special role, the sacrifices expected of them and the nomadic lifestyle imposed upon them by operational requirements should entitle them to special voting arrangements and the unique privilige of being able to vote for any party or candidate, in any ward they choose, anywhere in the UK. The ramifications of that would be considerable and would make any future government think twice before sending our forces to war.

Today, the Independent published an article which reported that Lib Dem peer, Lord Roberts was raising the issue of the Government's scandalous failure to help the Forces exercise their democratic right to vote after it emerged that about 60,000 or one third are unregistered.

Mithering your MP about this issue is dead easy. Google him or her and send an e mail or a bluey demanding better voting priviliges. Get your friends and family to do it too. You deserve easier voting rights, but you have to fight for them and it won't half put the frighteners on Westminster!
 
#16
The election after this will probably be in 2015. Perhaps, by then, us military types should all register (by some means or other) in marginal constituencies. 300,000 personnel, and their partners and spouses, could make quite a difference. Perhaps BAFF, rather than sitting on their hands, should try to organise.
 
#17
Winstanley said:
The election after this will probably be in 2015. Perhaps, by then, us military types should all register (by some means or other) in marginal constituencies. 300,000 personnel, and their partners and spouses, could make quite a difference. Perhaps BAFF, rather than sitting on their hands, should try to organise.
150,000 surely?
 
#19
Winstanley said:
The election after this will probably be in 2015. Perhaps, by then, us military types should all register (by some means or other) in marginal constituencies. 300,000 personnel, and their partners and spouses, could make quite a difference. Perhaps BAFF, rather than sitting on their hands, should try to organise.
Well yes, thanks anyway for helping to make an important point about the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF).

Apart from being at the forefront of the campaign to encourage and make it easier for service personnel to register and vote, BAFF is "sitting on their hands" in one respect and one respect only, that it is not politically aligned and cannot and will not seek to influence the outcome of an election in favour of one party or another.

I am also confident that the future developed BAFF in 2015 will not be advocating electoral fraud either, which is what your "by some means or another" would amount to.



Don't forget, the deadline for registration to vote or to make a new application for a proxy or postal vote is TUESDAY, 20 APRIL. Any such application needs to be in the hands of the Electoral Registration Office in the constituency by 5 pm on that date.
 

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