Examination of Witnesses (Questions 275-279)|
17 MARCH 2004
FLETCHER MBE AND
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 thisnot 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
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
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.