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Is the new postal voting system open to abuse

01:00 Wed 23rd May 2001 |

asks rtell:
A.
The new voting system - The Representation of the People Act 2000 - was designed to make postal voting more accessible. Previously, it was only possible to register for a postal vote in special circumstances.

Q. Any other improvements
A.
Yes, resident checks by local authorities are no longer needed before your name can be entered on the electoral register, and where you once had to wait a year to be registered at a new address, now you can do it in six weeks.

Q. Has postal voting been successful
A.
Oh yes. The Times surveyed 100 constituencies and found an average registration increase of 300%. There was a particularly big increase in marginal Labour seats.

Q. How was this achieved
A.
For a start, there was the Government's multimillion pound campaign to let people know about it. Then the Labour Party swamped marginal seats with postal vote forms. And Labour canvassers with application forms have visited homes in these areas to persuade people who'd rather stay at home to register for a postal vote.

Sounds like a good way to persuade people to vote...
A.
Cabinet ministers are said to be very happy, especially asthe postal vote has always been to the Tories' advantage in the past. Now it looks as though it could work for Labour, too.

Q. So, is it all above suspicion
A.
Not quite. A newly formed Electoral Commission has been set up by the Government to monitor the conduct of all elections, and it will investigate the huge rise in postal voting. Chairman Sam Younger said: 'We will be writing to every returning officer and electoral registration officer to establish whether there is evidence that there is anything wrong with these figures. If there is, we will take action accordingly.'
And Lord Weatherill, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, has spoken out about his concern about the potential for abuse under the new rules.

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By Sheena Miller

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