David ‘Keen Eyes’ Brake spotted this story, in which some councillor from Birmingham claims that e-voting, postal voting, and the like are a disgraceful breach of human rights. His point seems to be that it is easier to buy votes which are not cast in the privacy of a ballot box, while also claiming that postal votes were changing hands for up to 30 nicker in Brum. Councillor Hemming has even put up a hysterical web-site, with some local examples of dodgy doings, claiming that “Free and Fair elections are being replaced by gangsterism and terrorism.” Mind you, his CV looks technically proficient, so he might have a point.
Vox is not convinced, though. You can still pay people to vote for you in traditional elections, and the likelyhood is that if you can find people who will take money (despite the secrecy of the polling booth) they will vote the way you want. But actual fraud, perpetuated by individuals or political parties, remains rare. (The exception is the Trade Union movement, where polling schenanigens are positively encouraged and ballot rigging is a life skill). This is largely because it presents a disproportionate risk: its difficult to do on a mass scale, and disasterous if you are found out. The move to elecronic voting is not likely to change this. Much more dangerous, as Comrade Bill Thompson has been arguing, is the danger of systemic fraud brought about by bored hackers.
There has been a long standing problem with abuse of electoral processes both in Birmingham and in other areas. Battles over proxy voting with people queuing up to prevent their proxy voting for them. Abuses of postal voting and the traditional technique of personation continue today. You would need to ask the Labour ex MP for Perry Barr why he would not vote for Khalid Mahmood. There was a considerable dispute about the use of postal votes in the selection of the Labour Candidate for Perry Barr for the 2001 General Election. One polling district of 1900 voters had only 8 people voting. That is a student hall of residence. Everyone could guess what would happen if 1900 postal votes were merely put in the pigeon holes of all the students.
Luckily all the main political parties in Birmingham have recognised the difficulties with postal voting and have therefore resolved not to have an all postal pilot for the June 2004 European Elections.