Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 275-279)

17 MARCH 2004

MS SUZANNE FLETCHER MBE AND MS ROSEMARY WYETH

  Q275 Chairman: Can I welcome you to the Committee this morning for the Committee's final evidence on postal voting. Do either of you want to say anything by way of introduction, or are you happy for us to go straight to questions?

  Ms Fletcher: I would like to say that I am a long time active campaigner, and we had all-postal ballots in Stockton on Tees in 2003, and I have very deep concerns about this—not about the result, which was about the same for all the parties where there was no other influence in the ward, but about the integrity and the secrecy of the ballot, about many other people filling in ballot papers for other members of the family and for other people. People are very worried and untrusting about what happened to the ballot after it had left their hands, and the problems there were with people getting the ballot papers, and being sure they were delivered safely back again.

  Q276 Chris Mole: I think you have begun to tread on the ground of my first question which is really, where there have been all-postal pilots so far, do you think there has been sufficient concern at what appear to be isolated security, administration and postal glitches?

  Ms Fletcher: I do not feel that those concerns have been picked up. We put a detailed submission into the Electoral Commission, and I was quite disappointed that none of that seemed to have been picked up on the Electoral Commission's report on the postal ballot.

  Ms Wyeth: I do not think it has been picked up properly either. Lots of government consultations on all sorts of things turn out to be very cosmetic in that there is a plan to do something, the people are consulted and then, regardless of what people say, whatever the government wanted to happen happens but the consultation has been more cosmetic than anything else, and I feel this is the thing with postal ballots as well.

  Q277 Chris Mole: Do you have any particular concerns about the proposals that were in the draft Bill to modify the declaration of identity to do away with the need for witness attestation?

  Ms Fletcher: Yes. I have very serious concerns about that. There was no declaration of identity in the Stockton on Tees pilot and I feel that was a significant factor in people filling in other peoples' ballot papers, and I do feel there does need to be a witness declaration of identity. I also feel there needs to be a proper signed registration of electors on to the electoral roll as well as part of that to make the checks possible.

  Ms Wyeth: I agree.

  Q278 Chris Mole: The Electoral Commission propose that there should be staffed delivery points for those unable or unwilling to vote by post. Are you in favour of that?

  Ms Fletcher: I think that is a good idea in theory but it is going to be extremely difficult because it means that staffed delivery point has got to make sure that the ballots are kept secure for the whole of the time, whether it is 10 or 17 days, that the postal ballot is running, and the costs are going to be enormous but I am perhaps more concerned about the security of that.

  Q279 Mr Clelland: It has been done before though, has it not, in pilots?

  Ms Fletcher: I do not know. It has not been done in Stockton on Tees.


 
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