back to article UK postal vote system 'not fit for purpose'

The UK electoral system is not fit for purpose because it is too easy to create fake voter registrations. Election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC made the comment as he described postal voting on demand as "lethal to the democratic process", and said the current system means "wholesale electoral fraud is both easy and …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Dave
    Thumb Down

    That's it?!

    Can't hold office for 5 years? THAT'S IT?! Why the flying hell isn't he in PRISON.

    Asshole politicians. What a slap in the face of every Brit.

  2. Damian Gabriel Moran

    electoral system not fit for purpose...

    never mind, neither are those that look to be elected!

  3. andy

    What we need are

    ID cards!!

  4. Onionman

    Postal voting inherently dangerous

    There is an inherent fault with mass postal voting.

    Under the standard voting system, it's impossible to buy a vote. For example, you offer me £100 to vote for the candidate of your choice. I go into the booth, vote for a different candidate, lie to you and collect £100. Not so with postal voting, as you can prove whether I did what you asked. For that reason alone, let alone the reasons outlined above, postal voting should be kept to a minimum. We should go back to the old rules, namely that you had to have a good reason for a postal vote.

    If you are able but can't be bothered to walk a few hundred yards to vote, you deserve the government you get; it shouldn't be made easier for you.


  5. Andy Worth


    So how long before you have to submit biometric data in order to prove your right to vote?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Dave said it best: Why isn't he in prison!!!

    "Khan was banned from holding public office for five years and lost his Slough council seat."

    So the penalty for electron rigging is to not hold public office for the next five years. That's the same thing that happens when you lose an election. So where is the deterrent to election rigging? The message it sends is that if you can't win fairly then you may as well cheat because the worst that can happen is that you lose.

  7. Steve
    Thumb Up


    The ideal democracy is one where participation is effortless.

    Having polling stations that open on specific days at specific times is not an attempt to achieve that.

    Postal and online voting have increased participation by a significant amount, now we just need a system that isn't open to abuse and jail time for anyone who does abuse it.

  8. Steve Evans

    Don't worry...

    Non of our politicians are fit for purpose either, so it cancels out!

    It's the fleece with the bobble hat in the pocket.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    so while promoting the postal voting system, our dear politicians are in the process of closing post offices...

    Consipracy theories aside, the only explanation is incompetence.

  10. Steve Evans

    How about...

    ...taking a leaf out of some other countries books and allowing voting in person to be carried out over several days... Maybe including (brace yourself, this is going to be a shocker) a non-working day! (Told you it was a shocker).

    Why the hell we have to vote on a Thursday really is beyond me... What genius came up with this? I guess it was a polling official that didn't want to work on a weekend.

    Sort it out, I work away during the working week, and cannot possibly vote any other way than by post (not that there really is much choice between all the crooks bar the different colour rosettes).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I seem to remember Radio 4 news this morning saying something like there is a separate Police investigation, which will probably result in criminal charges, if found guilty there is a pretty high chance of a prison sentance.

    Other than that - Who'd of thought that a voting system that works around never seeing a whole load of the people who vote could be compromised in a childishly simple manner? I realise that the government want more people to vote, but really, if you can't drag yourself out of the house a couple of hundred meters down the road to the local polling station once every couple of years, you really don't deserve to have your voice heard. (Excepting people who are legitimately out of the country, disabled, seriously ill etc.)

    I'd be quite up for an Australian type system where you have to vote, but you can vote for RON.

  12. The Mole

    Voting on a Thursday

    I've heard (may be false) the reason that we vote on a Thursday is traditionally people were paid on a Friday and hence were likely to be drunk for the next few days. Thursday is therefore the day most people are likely to be sober (but also probably hungry)

  13. John Deaux


    Postal votes have to be applied for several weeks in advance, and once granted, can't be exchanged for "in person" votes in a hurry.

    I've failed to vote in the last few elections because I've found out that I'm working late or in a different country too near to the election to apply for a postal vote.

    Sods law says I'll be in the country, with a quiet day at work now I've actually got a postal vote.

    Re: RON - the nearest we have in this country is a wilfully spoiled ballot. If enough people just wrote "RON" across their papers, we could make a point.

  14. 3x2

    Can't we just get

    some of those American electronic voting machine thingy's?

  15. Steve Sutton

    @ Onionman

    Okay, fine, but how do you suggest I prove that it is a 3-4 hour, 160 mile round trip costing about £20 in fuel (never mind wear and tear/mileage/&c.), that is barely practicable to do on a working day, that I have to make in order to vote?

    Do I need a note from my boss, confirming where I work? And, how do I prove the authenticity of the note?

  16. Onionman


    > The ideal democracy is one where participation is effortless.

    On what logical basis do you make such a sweeping statement? Give a reason. It's just as valid to say that "the ideal democracy is one where participation is as difficult as possible." With no argument to support it, it's equally valid.

    It never fails to amaze me: Across the world people will queue, sometimes for days, to vote, yet in the UK where it's beautifully easy - OK, 800 yards to the polling station isn't *literally* effortless - people don't bother. I know people who don't vote, then think they have the right to whinge about the cretins who get in - not near me, they don't.


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Steve - re @ onionman

    "Postal and online voting have increased participation by a significant amount ..."

    Isn't the point of this story suggesting that the significant amount you talk of cannot be reliably said to be real people!

  18. Luther Blissett

    What's that sound?

    The nu labour Government not falling over itself to fix our democratic right to free and fair elections.

    As the Government always wins the election, the only rational strategy is always to vote against the current incumbents. Otherwise it simply gets fat, complacent, two cars, two houses, two wives, unreal, etc. If the population of the UK is 80 or 100 million according to the electoral roll (does anyone know? because sure enough noone seems to care), the last conceivable reason for voting disappears - as does the Nu Insect Overlards figleaf of a customer-based political system.

  19. Richard Kay

    @Steve Evans

    The reason voting has to take place on one day is the cost of supervision by and of those looking after the ballot boxes. Many local authority employees have to spend a very long day staffing the polling booths and conducting the count, and can't do anything else all day. With the system as it stands it is very difficult for someone to cheat much in connection with polling booth and counting activity (as a candidate and agent I've helped supervise a number of counts). Postal ballots are another matter as these have to hang around for days, and there is no guarantee of anonymous voting with postal ballots.

    You don't need biometrics for those voting in person, as the risk of being caught for the minor amount of cheating any one person or small group could do is too great to make it worth the risk. The cost, in terms of putting voters off voting and their resulting loss of trust and respect for the system, would be very much greater.

  20. Ben Griffiths


    > The ideal democracy is one where participation is effortless.

    How can you participate without extending any effort? Democracy is about participation, it's fundamental. It can range from the simple like,

    - Talking about politics with friends/neighbours

    - Joining together with your neighbours to improve the local area

    - Lobbying your MP or Councillor

    Right up to being the prime minister. But it is all about participation and making an effort, something that a lot of people fail to see.

  21. Andy Bright

    No way!

    We have a democratic process? When did that happen? I thought we just had this one guy that pretty much decided to do whatever he felt like.. what's he called again? Oh yeah, Prime Minister.

    Real democracies don't give one person the power to dictate what passes into law and what doesn't. Oh sure, he needs to convince his cabinet to do what he tells them to, and it's vaguely possible that MPs could vote against what he tells them to vote for.. but reality is no one that wants to move up the political ladder will do any such thing. So what we're left with is a dictatorship, albeit one that we sort of vote for - well if you're the member of a political party that wins the general election you got to vote for your party leader. Which sort of means someone, somewhere, voted for the Prime Minister. Just not in a public election.

    Still it could be worse. We could have the US system of voting for people who know better than us who should run our country. Oh wait, we do that already too.

    You know the funny thing is they want our system of parliament and the just about never used option of a "Vote of no confidence", saying how much better this is. If they found out that Prime Ministerial positions would be the equivalent of giving the President pretty much 100% control over the law of the land, do you think they'd still be asking for it?

  22. David Cherry


    The last time an election was held on another day was in 1931, when Britons trooped to the polls on a Tuesday.

    Anyway a new way of getting a good turn out is to make polling date a bank holiday

  23. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    System Screwed - So What ?

    It's unlikely there will be any serious attempt to reduce election fraud because all parties rely on it, hence they even encourage systems which are open to fraud, especially those with no paper trail.

    If they didn't there's the ultimate risk that low turnout would reveal them as being without a crediblemandate and the entire political system could collapse.

    Mine's the one with the pockets stuffed full of ballot papers.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @John Deaux

    The problem in this case is that the votes were applied for by people who didn't exist, also it's pretty easy to forge a vote, all you need to ID is a DOB and to know what the signature is like.

    I think it's totally fine to have a postal, if you are out of the country, but the working late argument is a bit lame. It is, after all, a criminal offence to prevent someone from voting, this specifically includes employers making staff work, although saturday or late(er) night voting would be a good thing.

  25. Philip

    Shurely shome kind of coinshidence.....

    But anyway - am I still allowed to make the observation that all the postal vote riggers caught so far have also been members of the Religion Of Peace?

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. Barrie Shepherd


    Re @Dave comment

    It’s often said that the rule in Australia is “Vote early and vote often” The system here is open to similar abuse.

    Ballot forms are often the size of tablecloths due to the complex proportional voting system designed to flummox the voter into the "above the line" vote which basically means "allocate my vote(s) as the two leading parties see fit".

    Vote day is Saturday - deliberately chosen as after the Friday night swill??

  28. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    @John Deaux

    "If enough people just wrote "RON" across their papers, we could make a point."

    Only if RON were allowed to win the election. Perhaps the votes of MPs should be weighted according to the proportion of the electorate who voted for them. That would preserve the notion of "consituency MP" but make RON useful and reduce the value of marginal seats.

  29. Nigee

    proportional voting

    But voting below the line and starting with your last choice is a wonderful experince. I find the cathartic joy of writing 150 against the name of some total arsehole one of life's pleasures.

    Also in Aust there are electoral commissions responsible for operating the polling stations, not local councils. These commisisons use paid volunteers and elections are always on Saturdays. I can't see any obvious reason why elections shouldn't be over Fri-Sun to encourage voluntary voting.

  30. Waldo

    Oh go on then.....

    system 'not fit for purpose'’

    I'll vote for that!

  31. Ben Griffiths


    "So what we're left with is a dictatorship, albeit one that we sort of vote for - well if you're the member of a political party that wins the general election you got to vote for your party leader. Which sort of means someone, somewhere, voted for the Prime Minister. Just not in a public election."

    You vote in a general election for an MP who shares your ideas. The MP can be a member of a political party - a group of people who share the same ideas. If their party wins then their ideas get debated before parliament.

    If you are not happy with a political party you have to get involved. This does happen, have a look at Dr. Richard Taylor.

    Stop thinking government is just a ship and you can't change its course. You can, but you have to be prepared to do something about it not sitting at home moaning.

  32. John
    Thumb Up

    Like they say...

    Vote early, and vote often !

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Onionman

    The reason people don't bother to vote is because its like going to a restaurant and finding a menu full of different kinds of sh*t.

    I want something decent, not sh*t, and if its not on the menu then I'm not ordering.

    As for getting the government we deserve, no one voted for Gordon Brown.

  34. Jon G

    Its quite simple

    To make the voting system work, you just have to make voting compulsory (and include a "None Of the Above" option for those that do not wish to vote for a particular candidate) and allow voting over several days including a weekend - and there you have it. No need for postal voting.

  35. Slaine

    historically, it's minority rule

    I recommend voting for "none of the Above" - shame it isn't an option.

    Mine's the nice warm one with lots of pretty buckles and really really long sleeves.

  36. Roger Paul

    What time are they open until?

    Well... I work 8.30 until 5 and it takes around an hour to drive to work in the morning and I'm still finding the time to vote. The booths are open until 10pm which kinda gives me bags of time.

    Shift worker you say? My next door neighbour is a chemical engineer, works 12 hour shifts and suprisingly he still finds time either before or after a shift to vote...

    Don't give me that rubbish. If you don't have time to get back to vote then you need to register in a different constituency.

    On another note, I'd welcome a 'vote against' box on the sheet. We had a BNP candidate stand for local government last week, and although I wasn't inpressed with the alternatives I had to choose one just to keep that fecker out. If I'd have had the option I'd have simply voted against the BNP candidate.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward




    What is this? A Word Association game?

    (I'm not picking on anyine here, goes for the Conservative Part in power as much as it does for the Conservative Party in opposition)

  38. Rob McDougall
    Black Helicopters

    No to eVoting

    Whatever happens, postal vote corruption cannot justify eVoting. Look at the U.S. - their entire elections are now rigged soooooo easily, it's not even funny...

  39. Anonymous Coward

    More people would vote...

    ...if there was a box marked 'abstain'/'none of the above'.

  40. Robert Harrison

    Missing the boat/vote

    To all the 'you should find time to vote' types

    I missed a local election a couple of years ago because I was working 100 miles away in London at the time. Although I attempted to get back before voting closed I was of course at the mercy of the public transport (train) system. If it was a day trip (I can't remember) I will have set off around 5-6am in order to return home at 10-11pm, similar would apply for a trip lasting a couple of days. 'Meet the needs of the business' and all that.

    @Ben Griffiths

    How idealistic. I would love to start a political party, all I need to do is give up my job to devote my full attention to this endeavour. Seeing as you are 'prepared to do something about it' please forward on cheques to cover my council tax and mortgage payments. And, as far as I can tell, there isn't an MP who shares my ideas, excluding the ones about gold-plated pensions and lots of expense allowances, which in my case are just that, ideas.

  41. David Bellamy

    An election agent writes...

    As a general election agent for a sitting MP, I have a few thoughts on this...

    Postal voting is important. As noted, you may be away with work (on the day or for a longer period). You may be on holiday. You may be too infirm to go and vote. Or you may be a single parent and have to stay in with young kids. Whatever. If there's one thing you learn from being involved in local politics, it's that people are different and just because you can organise your life to manage something, it doesn't mean they can.

    You *can* take your postal vote to a polling station (in your constituency) on election day. You must have it in the envelopes provided, so you're effectively posting it direct to the ballot box, rather than trusting Royal Mail.

    Dropping the requirement to give a 'good' reason for a postal vote was sensible: nobody ever did investigate whether it was true or not, and it was a deterrent to people who needed a postal vote getting one.

    The Government has done a lot to strengthen the process in the last year or so. For example, councils now do spot checks of your signature, date of birth etc against their other records (eg council tax). If they do this properly, any significant attempt at fraud should be spotted.

    The problem in this case is false electoral registration, not with the postal vote process (the Times article was deliberately misleading in this respect). Given the great difficulties councils have in getting people onto the register as it is, introducing more stringent requirements would be blatantly anti-democratic.

    Councils can and should carry out more checks (eg 5 more people are living at this address than last year; I think I'll investigate a bit further). A widespread fraud where you just add one or two voters at many addresses (in order to have an impact on the result) would be very difficult to carry out: word would get out, as someone at each household has to be bought into the scheme (to receive the ballot papers).

    I could walk into a polling station at 7.01am and pretend to be any man in the polling district. If I spend a day doing this (easy, given that some people reliably never vote), that's maybe 20 extra votes in a parliamentary constituency for my candidate. Undetectable and unstoppable unless you insist people show a form of ID that *everyone* always has. (This is where ID cards and a national ID database link into this debate, not that I'm expressing an opinion either way.)

    The Electoral Commission are a civil service joke, living in their ivory towers and failing even to do their admin properly. Like in IT, you're better speaking to someone with lots of experience on the ground (whatever their party) to understand what's really happening.

    In summary (at last!), sadly, attempts at fraud are a cost of doing business. Councils need to take proportionate steps to identify fraud. It is possible to detect all material fraud (unless the seat was won by a only handful of votes). Beyond that, further controls are not realistic.

    I'll get my coat, because I'm an election agent... (and because I'm off for lunch).

  42. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    @ David Bellamy

    "I could walk into a polling station at 7.01am and pretend to be any man in the polling district. If I spend a day doing this... that's maybe 20 extra votes"

    The inference appears to be that your 20 votes won't really affect things and not worth the effort, and that's perhaps generally true. Being clever though one chooses swing constituencies where the outcome is border-line anyway so a small forced shift is all that's required, isn't that suspicious in itself, and consequently very hard to detect. It's foolish to try and engineer a 30% swing when a 1% swing elsewhere secures a desired seat.

    That only helps keep the balance of power as one would like it. To ensure a landslide against whatever odds it is far better to introduce electronic counting, lose the paper trail and allow cheating on a larger scale. Not cheap, but often worth it.

  43. 4.1.3_U1


    Can anyone enlighten me as to who or what RON is in the context of elections?

  44. David

    @ 4.1.3_U1

    RON = re-open nominations. Not an option in public elections in the UK.

  45. Absolute Cynic

    None of the Above not enough. We need NO CONFIDENCE as an option.

    The purpose of an election is to elect a parliament which represents the people. The UK First Past the Post system guarantees an unrepresentative parliament.

  46. Naadir Jeewa

    What we need is...

    I say we call Diebold to solve our problems.

    Mine's with the brown paper envelope to give to the lobbyist.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021