Monday, January 21, 2013

Give Fair Play A Chance

The Electoral Commission could be a small, well-managed organisation that looks after that tiny number of things that may, perhaps, best be done centrally if we're to have something approaching democratic elections. An organisation that lets local administrators get on with their jobs and doesn't try to micro-manage processes that constitutionally don't belong to it.

Instead, it's a bloated bureaucracy that cost £86 million to run in 2011/12. That’s a 258.3% increase on the previous year. The Commission is chaired by a career mischief-maker, Jenny Watson, paid £100,000 for a three-day week.

We’ve already expressed our concerns about the Commission’s management, and others have done likewise. This month we had another chance to do so. The Commission, obviously worried by the justifiable criticisms assailing it, has launched a review of electoral fraud and invited our comments. Here’s what we told Mark Williams, the Commission's Electoral Policy Manager:

“Dear Mr Williams

I refer to Jenny Watson's letter dated 11 December 2012. Her fourth paragraph states that ‘We are currently monitoring activity in advance of the November 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner elections’. The closing sentence states that the letter was approved by the Chair, so the mismatch of dates does call into question her competence.

The Wessex Regionalist Party is pleased to have been consulted by the Commission on the subject of electoral fraud. We offer the following comments:

1. We note the evidence quoted that public trust in the fairness of elections is poor. The Commission's published 'Vision' includes the statement that ‘people should be able to trust the way our elections and our political finance system work’. This, however, is a subjective aim. It reduces to a matter of public opinion, namely that the process is trustworthy, what should be an objective basis for that trust. Significantly, no figure is given for the breadth or depth of trust that needs to exist for the Commission to be able to say that it has achieved its aim. The Commission is not interested in getting at the truth, only in tricking us into believing that there is nothing to worry about. The accuracy of an electoral process should not be a subjective matter. The process is either accurate or it is not. Allowance for any degree of inaccuracy is inexcusable.

2. A number of high-profile cases of electoral fraud have involved abuse of postal voting, especially among certain immigrant communities where different standards are seen to apply. The extension of postal voting beyond the traditionally accepted categories is inherently open to abuse and should be reversed. There is no justification for permitting postal voting except where the voter cannot attend a polling station during the hours of the poll for reasons of absence or certified incapacity. As well as its implications for fraud, extending choice for the voter comes at a cost for the taxpayer, who has to fund separate processes of issue and receipt for what are now large numbers of postal ballot papers. Postal voting is part of the cult of sloppiness promoted by the former Labour administration and needs to be severely curtailed.

3. Our firm belief is that the Commission is over-funded, abusing taxpayers' money arbitrarily to promote ill-considered changes to electoral law and practice. It has an organisational vested interest in constant upheaval, disguised as 'modernisation'. The least it can do to make amends is to recommend restoring the previous stance on postal voting that was so foolishly abandoned. The Victorians and their successors got electoral law right. It was tried, tested, and above all, trusted, for generations. 'Reform' has destroyed that trust.

Yours faithfully

David Robins
Wessex Regionalist Party”

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