5 Postal and proxy voting|
61. Currently, electors who want to register for
a postal or proxy vote have to provide the personal identifiers
of a signature and a date of birth. These identifiers then have
to be replicated by the elector when they cast their postal vote,
and the returning officer verifies them against the original samples.
Electors who wish to vote by proxy must submit a form setting
out why they need to vote by proxy. In some situations, this must
be co-signed by a qualified person, such as a doctor. Those who
are nominated as proxies must also be eligible to vote in the
62. As part of its consultations on electoral administration,
the Government is proposing to alter the rules for proxy voting.
We consider these proposals in Chapter 8 of this Report. We consider
here the impact of the Government's proposals for individual electoral
registration on those who use postal and proxy votes, especially
those who may have no alternative to using them.
63. Under the Government's proposals, "electors
with an absent [postal or proxy] vote who fail to register under
IER in 2014 will automatically lose the right to use this method
This change carries risks that people who are currently registered
for a postal or proxy vote may be unaware of the new requirements
and become disenfranchised in 2015. This could have a particular
impact on the elderly, the disabled, and those in residential
64. The Electoral Commission will run the campaign
informing electors of the transition to individual electoral registration.
We believe that particular attention will be paid to the need
to make the information campaign accessible to all, and to target
it towards groups who tend to rely on postal and proxy votes to
exercise their right to vote.
65. When asked why IER would come into force before
the 2015 General Election for postal and proxy voters, the Minister
stated that the perception and risk of fraud associated with postal
voting was too great for the Government to consider extending
the 'carry-forward' for postal voters. He told us "it will
be made very clear to people who have a postal vote that, if they
do not take the trouble to register individually, they will still
be on the register. They will still be able to vote, but they
will not have the opportunity to vote by post".
He added that the Government was working with groups representing
the elderly to ensure that they were aware of the changes to the
registration requirements for postal voting.
66. Electoral administrators and returning officers
expressed concern about the proposal not to carry forward existing
postal and proxy registrations for elections in 2015, given that
postal voters, unlike those voting in person, already provide
a date of birth and a signature as identifiers.
John Turner told us that the AEA "cannot see any logic"
in the proposal.
As evidence from Scope and Mind suggests,
many of those who have an absent vote would struggle to vote in
person, and some may also have difficulty in completing the individual
registration process. We recommend that the Government look
closely at applying the same carry-forward arrangements for the
2015 General Election to postal and proxy registrations as to
other registrations, to avoid inadvertently disenfranchising vulnerable
Requirement for a signature
67. The current requirement to supply a signature
when applying for and casting a postal vote has, according to
disability charity Scope, "caused particular challenges for
disabled people who may not be able to make a distinctive mark
or sign in a consistent manner".
The requirement for a signature does not prove the eligibility
of the postal voter, only that the same signature has been provided
on the application and subsequent postal vote.
68. People's signatures often change over time, particularly
in old age. John Turner, Chief Executive of the Association of
Electoral Administrators, gave us anecdotal evidence that many
postal votes were rejected because of signatures failing to match
"the current postal voter identifier process,
of itself, lends to disenfranchisement because of this matching
of signatures and dates of birth, where the data was given up
to five years ago". 
69. We recommend that the Government take the
opportunity provided by the introduction of individual registration
to consider dropping the requirement of a signature as a personal
identifier to cast a postal vote, once IER is well-established.
This is because of the unreliability of the signature as a personal
identifier, and because those electors wishing to cast a postal
vote under IER will already have had their identity verified by
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