Wednesday 5 May 2010

In person and in private

(Note: This blog is actually posted on Wednesday 5th May, the day before polling. I have not yet discovered how to make the apparatus default to the UK time-zone, as instructed.)

This will be my last post for over a week. Tomorrow I shall be busy and on Friday I leave for a week's walking holiday in the Isle of Wight with an Anglo-French group. (This is the result of thoughtless planning: the holiday was booked some months ago when it did not occur to me that this was the likely date of the election. As a consequence I shall be on a train when what I expect to be the crucial Friday results are announced. So that I don't miss out altogether a friend has advised that I buy an MP3. I have ordered one on the internet and, if it arrives on time and I manage to figure out how to work it I shall join what I have hitherto regarded as anti-social earplug-wearers cut off from everyday life - but for a higher purpose.)

Posts will resume in a different political world: I hope very different. However, one story from the "old world" that is bound to be around is accusations of fraud in the postal voting. Over my lifetime various changes have been introduced to try to make voting easier or more attractive. The minimum age has been lowered to 18 in order to engage the young, the closing time for voting has been extended from 9pm to 10pm (much to the distress of the polling staff) and the restrictions for entitlement to a postal vote have been removed, so that anyone who wants one can have one. There have been experiments at local government level for "all-postal" elections, and suggestions for internet voting, text voting and putting polling booths in supermarkets. These have failed as turnout has fallen from over 80% to barely 60%, though, given the excitement, we can hope for an increase in this election.

Voting by post is insecure and leads to the possibility of fraud through illicit applications and pressure to vote in a particular way either within families or from party aparatchicks, as will be evident from accusations circulating by the time this blog resumes.

The French recognised that postal voting was insecure and abandoned it in 1976. Those unable to vote in person are permitted a proxy. Rather than extending postal voting we should do the same.

Frankly, given the fact that the majority of votes are cast in safe seats and have no hope of affecting the local outcome, it is amazing that as many bother to vote as do. The way to increase participation is to make every vote meaningful and the best way of achieving that is by introducing STV. If we Liberal Democrats have crucial influence after tomorrow I hope and pray that this will be he condition of our support for any government.

And that "supervote" should normally be cast, in the words of pavement-politics pioneer Tony Greaves, "in person and in private."

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