Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 25 OCTOBER 2005
Q140 Hywel Williams: Given what you
know at present without doing any further research, would the
national list address any of the concerns the Government seems
to have over the regional list and the Clwyd West question, et
cetera? Perhaps you are not in a position to answer that?
Mr Mathias: I am not in a position
to answer that question. I would be speculating and making it
up on the hoof and I do not think that is advisable.
Hywel Williams: Thank you.
Q141 Chairman: Could I ask the last
question and it is about postal voting. Is there any evidence
in your research about a falling away in the returns, so to speak,
where if you apply for postal votes, when the forms arrive they
appear to be so complexthe voting system and also how to
votethat is there is a disproportionate number of people
not returning their votes?
Mr Mathias: In the Assembly elections.
Ms Jenkins: No, actually the contrary
is true because postal voting in Wales has been taken up at a
higher level since its introduction as postal voting on demand.
In 2001 we had a higher number of postal voters in Wales compared
with England and Scotland and that has continued to rise. The
rise has just about bottomed out at this year's election in that
now in Wales there are only about 1% more postal voters compared
with England and Scotland, but in 2003 it was still very much
on the rise. We had about 11% of the electorate who asked for
a postal vote compared with an average across Britain of about
7% and there was a high rate of return at the 2003 election. So
although people did find the forms complicated to fill in, that
is undoubtedly true, they did return them.
Q142 Chairman: Is there a great deal
of variation across Wales then?
Mr Mathias: The levels of postal
voting certainly vary across Wales and perhaps quite surprisingly
in that some of the lowest areas of postal voting are some of
the rural areas and some of the highest are in the conurbations.
I do not think that is particularly relevant to the issue that
we are discussing.
Q143 David Davies: I may be going
off track here but one of the huge concerns that I had over postal
voting was that I could never get a clear answer from the returning
officer as to whether it was acceptable to go around with forms
to people and then to collect them back again. The returning officer's
advice was that this was inadvisable and she at the time would
recommend against it, but she was not able to give a clear set
of rules. It came to my attentionand I do not want to talk
about particular constituenciesthat in a constituency one
candidate for one party was doing that whilst another candidate
from another party was being advised that it was not a good idea
but because there was not a clear ruling on it that candidate
could not be certain whether to follow the recommendation and
be completely safe or to do what the other candidate was doing.
There need to be clear rules that we can all follow, surely, on
Mr Mathias: In advance of the
last general election the Electoral Commission did draw up a code
of conduct in conjunction with all the main political parties
and they all signed up to it. That code of conduct, with which
I am sure some Members are familiar, did specify that it was inadvisable
for candidates or agents or party workers to handle postal ballots,
and that was quite clear. I got the impression that, by and large,
this code of conduct was abided by during the election.
Mrs James: Certainly I was given that
advice and I circulated that to every one of our party workers.
Our advice was you do not touch a postal vote.
David Davies: I was not talking about
Bridgend when I was talking about that constituency, I can assure
you. Sorry, you are not Bridgend.
Mrs James: Swansea East.
David Davies: Not that one either, nor
Chairman: Can I thank you both for your
evidence and for the clarity of your evidence. It was very helpful.