Thursday, 20 May 2010

***BREAKING*** Change in Law Required Says Election Report

The report into the problems encountered on election day where queues of people were waiting for hours to vote and were not issued a ballot paper before 10pm (therefore not being able to vote) requires a change in the law says the Electoral Commission report

There were 1,200 people affected who were still queuing to vote in London, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham when Big Ben struck 10 on May 6th. As the law stands you have to have been issued with your ballot paper when 10 pm comes not merely be in the polling station or in a queue to get into a polling station.

Of course polling station staff will have to wait until every valid ballot paper is deposited in the ballot box before sealing them and sending them on their way to the count, but for a nation of queuers some of the queues to vote didn't go smoothly on the day.

I've queued for Wimbledon and I've queued overnight to get in. The queue there are issued with a numbered card which is checked off as you enter the fenced off approach to the gates, ensuring that nobody jumps the queue and gets there ahead of time, it is a well run and marshalled queue. So surely there must be some way to validate the identity of voters and issue a ballot paper to those who have queued up to vote.

On the night there were suggestions that those in the queue should be let into the building that is serving as the polling station and the doors closed behind them so that they will not be swayed by any news after 10 PM comes. Although to be fair none of us these days are truly fully cut off when we are in a public place like a polling station. But the premise holds that they would not be swayed by any outside influence coming down the queue and you would know who was in the queue at 10 PM as the doors are then closed, like many stores do at the end of the day*. Once somebody has voted obviously a member of staff or police officer will act on the door to let the individual out.

It makes sense, it may require a certain amount of overflow space in some locations to be available, or some other way to identify the people in the queue if that is not possible.

But it is something that can be done and should be done.

* Though not 5 minutes before the advertised closing time as I know happens in some shops.

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