Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Postal Vote Fraud Allegations

The BBC reports that Conservative MP for Shrewsbury Daniel Kawczynski has used Parliamentary privilege to allege that Labour councillors (including his opponent at the next General Election) who work at the local sorting office are using their "position to manipulate postal voting".

I don't know if this is true or not, I can imagine that it may be. People will do stupid things where elections and postal votes are concerned - people from all parties have been found guilty of such practices, and corruption isn't confined to any particular party so just as I can see a Labour member who works in a sorting office breaking the law, I can also see Conservatives and Lib Dem members doing exactly the same thing.

My concern with this story isn't the alleged fraud - although serious - it's the use of electoral fraud as a political point scoring tool. If Mr Kawczynski is truly concerned about this the place to bring it up is with the police not with MPs using parliamentary privilege. If he doesn't have evidence and is only working on the assumption that rumours he is hearing are true, the very least he should do is have a confidential chat with the sorting office manager or regional Royal Mail manager.

I happily admit to being a total geek about election law - if we cannot respect the rules and laws which govern our democratic processes then we cannot call ourselves a democracy. Breaches of electoral law are not minor offences, they are serious attacks on our democracy no matter how "small" they seem. One of the things that annoyed me most when I worked in politics was the blatant breaches of the law by smaller parties and independent candidates who thought the law didn't apply to them - only the three large parties. Electoral law is, for the most part, simply common sense - it's actually not difficult to adhere to (although it can be a pain in the neck to adhere to the spending limits in the heat of a campaign).

Mr Kawcynski owes his electorate and the democratic process more than scoring cheap points using potential breaches of the law. If he has evidence of a crime being committed he should go to the police, if he has strong suspicions but no evidence he should still go to the police and the postal authorities. Everyone who is involved in politics has a duty to protect our democracy - not to use it for sensational headlines.


Ellee said...

Until we get postal votes sorted, how can we move forward to digital voting, which we should be working towards now. Imagine, one day, you may be able to vote from your mobile phone..

Snafu said...

Just imagine how much worse such problems will become if political parties are paid for each vote cast in their favour!

Louise said...

Both thoughts - voting from a mobile and public funding of political parties fill me with dread