Given what is going on in America, now is a good time for the government to learn the lessons.
As a young police constable in Liverpool in the 1960’s and 1970’s I regularly performed duties at polling stations. It was standard practice at that time for a Constable to be present at every polling station whilst it was open. More significantly, every ballot box had a police escort from the polling station to the counting centre. Neither of these practices happen now and even in this country we have had ballot boxes mysteriously go missing for several hours.
Since I have got involved in politics, I have become more aware of the issues surrounding postal voting I am convinced there is systematic and organised fraud. A few cases come to light at every election, but by its very nature it is hidden behind closed doors. The problem arose when postal voting was extended to “on demand”.
There is definitely a case for some categories of voters to be allowed a postal vote, e.g. military, disabled, working away etc. But the fact that anybody can have a postal vote means that any voter can now have their postal vote stolen or fabricated. In the course of canvassing I have come across people who registered for a postal vote but never received them, I know of one instance where a group of people sat round in a room filling in boxes of postal votes. (an individual who was there refused to go public for fear of his life). There are stories of residential homes where the postal votes never get to the residents. It is my belief that batches of ballots are intercepted at various points in the process and then misused.
There is some discussion of voter ID and indeed it exists on a trial basis in England although it has been required in Northern Ireland for many years. The scale of impersonation which voter ID is designed to stop is much smaller that postal vote fraud and I believe the government have the wrong priority.
There are also tricks played at counts where piles of votes are wrongly allocated, strangely this always seems to benefit one party. Operatives when challenged will quickly acknowledge “a mistake”. Criminal intent is impossible to prove.
I have also been present at a polling station when a teller was giving voters the impression he was a polling clerk. You may guess which party he was from. I reported it and he was removed.
There is a serious lesson here, anyone close to the electoral process, and that includes candidates, agents of all descriptions, tellers and count observers all need to be 100% focussed on every stage of the process. There are some groups which will exploit any opportunity in the system to manipulate the result. Almost but not entirely these groups are on the left. Local authorities cannot claim to be unaware of the problem. I remember one election I was involved in where the head of electoral services actually slept in the council office room where ballot boxes were being stored overnight for fear of interference. The scale of the problem is being hidden and there is a reluctance to admit it.
The lack of security around ballot boxes and the opportunity for postal vote fraud has the potential to undermine our electoral system as we see happening in the US. I fear the level of fraud we are seeing in the US will embolden some groups in this country to extend their attempts to corrupt the system. We desperately need to avoid this. The government should restrict the use of postal votes and pay more attention to the security of our electoral process.
Should we have elections in May, everyone should be especially vigilant and looking for fraud.
Retired Deputy Chief Constable