It’s been revealed that more than one in three of all votes cast in the May 4th Local Government Elections for Penarth Town Council were postal votes.
It was an election which produced several unexpected results with a number of established Labour and Conservative members losing their seats – and with new and relatively little-known candidates easily outperforming well-known councillors.
The huge surge in postal voting in Penarth’s council elections is likely to fuel further concerns already expressed by the Electoral Commission about the postal votes system – particularly with the General Election pending on June 8th .
PERCENTAGE OF POSTAL VOTES CAST IN PENARTH TOWN COUNCIL ELECTION: MAY 4TH 2017
- Cornerswell 32%
- Plymouth 35%
- Stanwell 31%
- St Augustine’s 35%
There are no figures available to indicate whether there is any particular party preference in postal votes – compared with ballot papers filled-in at the polling station. No such analysis is carried out.
However there has been growing concern over many years about the validity of postal voting – and in particular the relatively lax registration process, compared with the more rigorous checks carried out by professional staff when voters turn up in person at polling stations.
Students are notorious for voting twice as they can be legally registered to vote in both their home town and in their university town and can therefore vote twice in local government elections (but only once – legally – in Parliamentary elections).
The surge in the percentage of postal votes cast in the Penarth Town Council election compares with the abnormal surge in postal voting in the 2012 Parliamentary By-Election in Cardiff South and Penarth, (in which Labour candidate Stephen Doughty was first elected).
In that by-election , out of a total of 19,571 votes which were cast, 6,936 of them were postal votes – comprising 35.68% of the total.
This was a huge increase compared with the previous General Election in Cardiff South and Penarth in 2010 , in which a total of 44,369 votes which were cast, of which 10,430 were postal votes – comprising 23.5% of the total.
In the General Election of 2015 the postal vote percentage for Cardiff South and Penarth settled back to 2010 levels. Out of a total of 46,667 votes which were cast, 10,798 votes were postal – comprising 23.14% of the total .
However in all three General Elections the percentage of postal votes in Cardiff South and Penarth is far higher than the percentage across the UK as a whole, which – the Electoral Commission says – was, in 2010, just 15% .
The Electoral Commission, which oversees elections in the UK, says “There is a consistent level of concern among voters about electoral fraud in the UK. These concerns are shared by a broad range of people with experience of standing for election or running elections, and it is unlikely that these concerns will diminish in the immediate future.”
The Electoral Commission also says “Under the current Great Britain system of household electoral registration there is no effective mechanism for verifying the identity of people applying to register to vote. Fictitious electoral register entries may be created“.
The Commission also admits that as Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) do not currently hold records of every elector’s personal identifiers (such as date of birth) there is no direct verification that an application to vote by post has been made by the elector themselves.
The Electoral Commission says “removing the act of voting from the protected public space of a polling station, people who have been sent postal ballot packs may be more vulnerable to undue influence, intimidation, harassment or pressure to vote in a particular way”.
Deputy High Court Judge Richard Mawrey, who tries cases of electoral fraud, has found there are 14 different ways in which postal votes can be manipulated and says postal voting makes the electoral system “open to fraud on a scale that will make election rigging a possibility and indeed in some areas a probability”.
For anyone thinking of voting by post or in person in the General Election – and who hasn’t yet registered – it’s now too late. The deadline for registration was yesterday.