Will we be able to trust the general election results?
That’s gravely in question as evidence piles up of the potential for fraud around postal voting.
There are numerous examples of Labour asking people who want a postal vote to send their applications back to Labour vote centres, campaign headquarters, or private addresses.
But now it’s getting worse. Labour is asking which party you are supporting at the same time as asking if you want a postal vote. A Labour leaflet in Hackney, east London, has a form where you are asked to tick a box to say you would like a postal vote.
The next box is to register as a Labour supporter, and the next two boxes ask which party you most closely identify with and which you are going to vote for on 5 May.
The form is then supposed to be returned to 88 Buckingham Road, London N1. According to Hackney council’s website this is a property owned by James Cannon. He is a Labour councillor and the agent for Labour’s Meg Hillier, who is standing for the seat of Hackney South.
There are already fears about what is happening in the borough. Mirroring a national trend, the number of postal vote applications has soared. A survey by the Evening Standard newspaper last week showed that in the 2001 general election there were 925 requests for postal votes. For the forthcoming election the number is 36,049, an almost 40 fold increase.
“The latest leaflets will raise grave suspicions for many people,” says Dean Ryan, Respect’s candidate in Hackney South. “Some might wonder what would happen to your postal vote application if you said you were voting for the ‘wrong’ party.
“Postal voting is inherently more open to fraud. In the recent Birmingham vote fraud case the judge said the system would ‘disgrace a banana republic’. He identified 14 kinds of undetectable abuse.
“When people do apply for postal vote they normally ask for votes for all future elections. Hackney has a high turnover of population and many houses in multi-occupancy. I can imagine stacks of votes arriving which it would be easy to steal. We want a fair vote.”
Ian Rathbone, a Labour spokesperson for the Meg Hillier campaign, told Socialist Worker, “There is nothing out of the ordinary here. We would of course hand on to the returning officer any application where people said they were voting for another party. We see what we are doing as part of the democratic process.”
The Respect candidate in Bethnal Green & Bow, George Galloway, has announced the party will be taking action under the Human Rights Act to ensure “free and fair elections”.
This follows the distribution of postcards by the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison organisation asking voters to fill in a postal vote application form. This form contains a box where applicants can fill in an address other than the one they are registered at.
This postcard is to be returned to the official sounding Postal Votes Centre, Freepost NAT 14962, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE3 3BP. This is a Labour Party office.
After the Birmingham case — where Labour councillors were caught sitting round a table in a warehouse with piles of postal votes waiting to be filled in — Galloway has accused Labour of flouting Electoral Commission guidelines. He said, “Ballot papers have a habit of sticking to New Labour’s fingers.”
At the very least Respect is demanding postal votes be counted separately to investigate their impact on the results.