Friday, 2 October 2009

What's your vote worth?(2)

There's a huge unanswered question over any future referendum on the EU here in the UK; who can vote?

Current arrangements are that all EU citizens registered to vote in the UK can vote in local and European elections. Only UK and Commonwealth citizens can vote in general elections or by-elections. There are two massive problems with this in practice; the first is that the standard of accuracy of our electoral registers is of third-world standard, the second is that even illegals and overstayers can vote.

Firstly, the Commonwealth. I believe the Commonwealth has the potential to be as important as Europe in terms of our trade and prosperity; the scope for defence and reciprocal arrangements is also huge and beneficial, and the global Anglophone alliance a source of strength. I fully support the tradition of young single people from the Commonwealth spending a year or two in the UK, whether working behind bars or as management accountants for one of the temp agencies or in the NHS. However, I've never understood the need for Commonwealth citizens to have the vote here, or for UK resident citizens to have the vote in Nigeria or Tonga. Since Labour abolished exit controls, and as there's no link between the electoral registers and the immigration database, it's quite possible for illegal overstayers or those with fraudulent identities to infect the probity of our voter base. So we must end the right of Commonwealth citizens to vote in the UK.

Secondly, the extent of fraud and error on the registers is massive. In 2001 the Labour government introduced postal and proxy voting on demand. In 2003 and 2004 the Electoral Commission called on the government to tighten checks on postal and proxy voting - and was ignored. The results have been clear to see;
  • On 4/4/05 a judge declared void two local election results in Birmingham because of Labour postal vote fraud and said the evidence of fraud "would disgrace a banana republic"
  • On 8/4/05 a Labour councillor in Blackburn was jailed for stealing 233 postal votes
  • On 14/4/05 the Head of Birmingham's electoral team was suspended following the discovery of 1,000 uncounted postal votes
  • In May 2005 police were investigating 25 cases of electoral fraud in 19 constituencies
  • In April 2006 police were investigating postal vote fraud in Tower Hamlets, six other London boroughs and Birmingham
  • In May and June 2006 police were called to investigate intimidation and vote rigging in Surrey, Coventry, London and Birmingham.
In 2006 Michael Pinto-Duschinsky gave evidence to a Commons Select Committee that there were 3.5m people registered on the electoral register who shouldn't be. In 2007 the Electoral Commission used NOP to estimate the extent of false registrations; in some voting districts, it was estimated that electoral registers were only 60% accurate.

So a great clear-out of the registers is also urgently needed. I suggest this takes place very quickly, alongside the 2011 census, with a once-only requirement for UK citizens to provide evidence (passport or birth certificate) of citizenship.

And as to who can vote in any referendum on the EU - whether before or after the Lisbon Constitution Treaty is signed - clearly, this should be UK citizens only. It's still our country.


Blue Eyes said...

We should also re-introduce the automatic right to vote for British citizens resident abroad.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Good ideas, but none of this will happen.

Electoral fraud is, from the Labour party's point of view, a feature not a bug, because they perceive (perhaps correctly) that it boosts their vote. And where boosting their vote is concerned, principles just don't come into it.

The only thing that might happen is the requirement to show some sort of proof if voting in person at a polling station; but guess what - passport or driving licence won't cut it; you know - you just know - what will be the only acceptable proof, don't you?

Quiet_Man said...

All Cameron needs to do is maintain that in a referendum you turn up in person to vote, no postal votes at all. Bit unfair to those who are housebound, but over all pretty fair.