Thursday, April 14, 2005

Electoral fraud: not just Labour; not just postal votes

A couple of relatives of mine are Tories from a moderately safe Tory seat, so they thought nothing of this bit of suspect tactics. If this is widespread, however, it could be incredibly dodgy - and a lot tougher to find out about than the postal voting thing...

These relatives of mine are both going to be away for the fortnight before the election, and election day itself, so there is no time for a postal vote form to arrive. The only option - a proxy vote.

Not knowing how proxy votes work, one of them hunted around, and found a handy phone number on some election material, claiming to be an information line about proxy and postal voting. Thinking it to be an independent set up, she was naturally surprised when the voice answered with "Hello, Conservative campaign headquarters?"

Being a good Tory, she carried on anyway, asking for proxy voting advice and how to get the forms, gave her address, and was assured that it would all be arranged. "How very helpful the Conservatives are," she thought to herself.

Two days later, an elderly couple turn up on the doorstep with a couple of proxy voting forms: "Hello, we're Mr and Mrs [X]. We've come over from [the next constituency - held by the Lib Dems] on behalf of the Conservative party. We're your proxy voters - here are your forms."

My female relative, somewhat confused but too polite to say no, invites them in and - again too polite to say no, fills out her form without asking many questions.

The elderly couple then hand her another form for her husband. "But my husband's not here," she says.

"That doesn't matter," they say, "You can fill it out for him."

"But it needs his signature," she says.

"That's OK," they say. "No one ever checks the signatures."

So my relative, blissfully unaware that she is breaking the law, signed away both her and her husband's vote, then hands the papers to a couple of Tory volunteers whom she'd never met before to deal with. Of course, she reckons it's OK because both her and her husband were planning to vote Tory. But - ignoring the fact that the whole thing is dodgy - from conversations with her husband I'm pretty certain that he wasn't planning to vote for the Tories this time anyway, and she didn't think to ask him...

Has anyone else heard about this? It's still fairly early for proxy voting to have kicked off full-on. Is this going to be the latest scam? Let's face it, proxy votes are generally intended to be cast by close friends or relatives, and are all about trusting your proxy voter to vote for the person/party you ask them to. If the parties are using gentle intimidation to get people to hand their votes over to complete strangers, all sorts of electoral fraud could be going on.

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