Update: Further to the story below more evidence is coming to light that the Labour party in Camborne and Redruth is deliberately flouting Electoral Commission recommendations on how political parties should handle postal votes. The Commission recommended in January 2014 that party workers
“Should not take, complete or help to complete postal or proxy vote applications.”
Yet Labour in Camborne and Redruth offers on their website to ‘send a volunteer to bring a form and help fill it in‘
In 2010 21% of the 42,808 votes cast in the constituency were by post. If this proportion rises markedly this year we’ll need to ask how exactly this happened.
Concerns are growing in the Camborne and Redruth constituency over the way the Labour Party locally is handling postal vote applications. When Blair’s Government tried (and failed) to increase turnout by making it ridiculously easy to obtain a postal vote, it opened the door to fraud and vote rigging. A series of high-profile fraud scandals ensued, mainly involving Labour candidates in the big English cities.
So much so that a top judge last year concluded that postal voting enables election-rigging ‘on an industrial scale’ and was ‘unviable’. After peaking in the early 2000s fraud cases have tailed off although the possibility remains of widespread fiddling by political parties interfering in the process. In this context, some are worried that Labour’s practices in Camborne are bringing the possibility of similar manipulation of postal voting to Cornwall.
The Electoral Commission’s Code of Conduct on handling postal votes clearly states
“because of the risk of suspicions that the application may be altered and the risk of the application being delayed or lost in transit, the local Election Registration Officer’s address should be the preferred address given for the return of application forms.”
In 2014 it went further and recommended specifically that political parties
“should not include an intermediary address for the return of postal or proxy vote applications – all applications should be returned directly to Electoral Registration Officers”.
But what do we find in Camborne and Redruth? There, accompanying an election communication from its candidate Michael Foster is an application for a postal vote. The party also kindly provides a freepost envelope for its return. Although voters are advised to return the form to Cornwall’s Electoral Registration Officer, whose address is given, the freepost envelope is instead addressed to the Labour Party at Commercial Square, Camborne. They then promise to send it on.
Why such a roundabout route to the Electoral Registration Officer? By blatantly ignoring the recommendations of the Electoral Commission in this way the Labour Party in Camborne might not be breaking electoral law, which is weak in this area. But it is sailing very close to the wind, and hardly acting in the spirit of the Electoral Commission’s recommendations.