Friday, July 01, 2005

Election Scrutiny

Good scrutiny meeting this week where we had reps from the Electoral Commission visit.
I'm increasingly convinced that we need to move to individual registration, rather than household (as they do in NI), and to require individual indentifiers (DoB/Signature). I'm not convinced of the need to record National Insurance nos, my understanding is that NI nos aren't necessarily secure (about 80m in existence, and significant gaps in their coverage, eg women of a certain age, and, I suspect, within the female population of some minority groups).
The questioning also highlighted the lack of knowledge of election law of the elected members. OK, some of it is a bit obscure, but I thought it was common knowledge that agents could appoint polling agents to attend polling stations.
My interpretation of our election law is that the political parties have the responsibility of observing fair play during elections, as the elections are administered by local authorities & officers. This contrasts with new/developing democracies, where administration of the election is done by the parties as they don't trust the authorities to carry it out in a non-partisan way, and that observation is done by neutral, external agencies (OSCE/OHDIR/EU etc).
This has a couple of consequences:
1) The Electoral Commission has no right to observe elections in the UK! Something of a gaping hole in the legislation.
2) Accusations by the observers must be taken seriously by the legal authorities. They often don't as they see it as being partisan. (See the work of John Hemming and Ayoub Khan in raising awareness of the PV problem in Birmingham).

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