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dubious behaviour at the polling station - what is legal?

(13 Posts)
tricot39 Sun 18-May-14 19:34:01

Last time we had an election, one of our local councillors had teams running voters to the polling stations. So far so good but when does this overstep the mark? I overheard the driver telling the passenger which box to tick on the voting paper..... Outside one of the party representatives was standing within the boundary of the polling station and asked me how i had voted. It was intimidating but I told him it was none of his business. He said that they would find out later when someone called at my house to ask. I didnt bother to disabuse him of that notion.

I thought party reps had to stand outside the polling station grounds to avoid being confused with the officials. Am i right?

Is it illegal to tell someone how to complete their ballot paper?

Where can i find a simple guide to the rights and wrongs of polling?


VivaLeBeaver Sun 18-May-14 19:36:25

The passenger might have said they wanted to vote for X party and the driver might have said then you need to tick x box??

Dunno, I've been canvassed before when leaving the polling station as to who d voted for. But by an independent type person who I think was doing some sort of official exit poll.

Hassled Sun 18-May-14 19:37:28

Electoral Commisson dos and don'ts here.

I usually act as a teller - I've never witnessed anything like that so it's certainly not standard behaviour.

MrsCakesPremonition Sun 18-May-14 19:39:31

This is an interesting overview from North Devon, I assume it is up to date. And it does sound like your local tellers have been overstepping the mark.

tricot39 Sun 18-May-14 19:48:51

Thanks for the links - just what i was after!

The driver i witnessed entered the polling station with his passenger. I noticed them initially as i had seen him door knocking and ferrying other people in the local area throughout the day. They were in front of me in the queue to collect ballot papers. The psssenger was being instructed on who to vote for but there was some confusion as he had no polling card. For a moment it wasnt clear if the passenger had registered to vote - the driver looked crestfallen and asked him if he was sure that he hadnt registered. However his details were found and one local (suspected dubious) candidate's name was duly pointed out on the form. It looked over the top to me.....

ChazzerChaser Sun 18-May-14 19:54:57

I've experienced tellers not behaving appropriately. I snitched to the returning officer. They'd disappeared by the time I came back out.

SnowinBerlin Mon 19-May-14 10:23:35

I acted as a party rep at the polling station a few years ago so hope I can fill in a bit of info.

It's quite normal for parties to ferry people (usually elderly party members or pledged supporters with mobility problems) to the polling station and while they can assist them into the actual building, as long as the voter is left alone in the voting area, that's fine.

Someone might ask who the particular party candidate is, and you can tell them, but you can't order them how to vote. You fully accept that while someone might have told you they support 'X' to obtain a lift, at the end of the day they may go into the booth and vote 'Y'.

I think the only problem that could arise would relate to a voter who lacked capacity, and was being pressured, but I've never come across that. I'm sure it happens, but hopefully not very frequently.

Parties do ask to check your voting number on the way out - they'll note it down and compare it against the canvassing returns. That way, if you've pledged to vote for them, they won't bother you later in the day when 'knocking up' their promised votes. If you've told a canvasser that you really really love that party and you are definitely voting for them in order to get rid of them, hand your number over or you risk having a desperate party activist ringing your doorbell at 7pm, to try and get you to vote!

Funnily enough despite often VERY bitter rivalry on the campaign trail, it's standard practice for parties to share those numbers with each other at the polling station. The campaign is over, everyone is tired, you all want the best data possible for the evening chase-ups. So if you give your number to the person with the Labour rosette, they'll happily share it with the Tory or Lib Dem person as soon as you're gone. Despite the fact they've spend the previous 6 weeks campaigning to crush them into the dirt.

Party reps can stand within the polling station building, but must be well away from the voting area. So in the entrance area basically, or just outside. They must be clearly identifiable as party members (usually they are wearing big rosettes). You do not have to give them your number, but they'll be very grateful if you do. If you feel they are getting a bit close to the voting area, or are a bit pushy you can alert the polling station staff who will have a word.

I did enjoy it and the local party I was electioneering for had a brilliant election weapon - a member with a Porsche 911 Carrera, who did driver duties every election day. We'd get calls from very elderly ladies weeks in advance checking that the dashing young Dave (he was in his fifties smile) would be picking them up to vote. God forbid you offer them the alternative of the other party helper with the comfortable people carrier. They may have been 95, with terrible arthritis and a recent double hip replacement and have to be virtually crow-barred out of the car on arrival. They were going to vote in style! grin

Isitmebut Mon 19-May-14 12:47:21

How about "dubious behavior" OUTSIDE of the Polling Station?

I wonder if this has been sorted yet - as what with dodgy electoral boundary lines, secret "diversity" immigration that can influence General Elections and Postal Ballots, we really do "disgrace a banana republic".

Mary Ann Sieghart (2012): "How dodgy postal votes may decide our next government"

“One of the biggest problems with postal votes is that they don't guarantee you a secret ballot”

“Most people see postal votes as a convenient way of avoiding the traipse to the polling station on a working day. Since Labour liberalised the law in 2000 to allow postal voting on demand, the number of people using them has soared. In the 1997 election, it was just over 2 per cent. By 2005, it was 15 per cent (and double that in Blackburn).

"There is no official figure for the 2010 election, but some constituencies reported increases of 200 per cent in postal vote applications. And this was particularly true in seats with a large Asian-heritage population.”

“Almost all the worst instances of postal vote fraud since 2000 have happened in seats with large south Asian concentrations, such as Oldham, Blackburn and Tower Hamlets. In 2004, Richard Mawrey QC, presiding over an election court, found six British Asian Labour councillors from Birmingham guilty of corruption that would, he said, "disgrace a banana republic".

"He declared that the Government's introduction of postal voting on demand was "an open invitation to fraud".”

Northumberlandlass Mon 19-May-14 12:54:31

I'm a Presiding Officer - The party reps/ volunteers can indeed run people to the polling station and that is absolutely where it ends. If I heard a rep / councillor instructing someone how to vote, they would be booted out of the polling station and if they resisted I would call the police.

I would not let the rep / volunteer anywhere near the booth, in fact I remember one case where they were only allowed the door and no further.

The only person who can legally assist someone to vote is the Presiding Officer and if we do, there is quite a bit of paperwork to complete.

Absolutely no one is entitled to know how you have voted. They can ask, you do not need to say. No one in connection with the Election Office would ask, they are tellers & reps collecting numbers. As a Presiding Officer if someone complained to me about the tellers / reps I would go & talk to them.

Any other questions, just ask! I'm going for my training for European Election tomorrow! Just in case anything has changed from last year smile

Northumberlandlass Mon 19-May-14 12:56:33

Tricot - any suspicious behaviour should be reported to the Presiding Officer in that Polling Station. We have full responsibility.

tricot39 Mon 19-May-14 19:30:28

Thanks for all the info. I think what I saw was definitely in a grey area. The volunteer was standing in front of the officials pointing at the paper and only yards from the voting booth. He was well inside the building. These were not frail elderly people (our ward demographic is much younger than the national average). The voter was probably a man in his 20s.

Interestingly both were south asians and so was the dubious councillor in question. We are not too far from tower hamlets and there were rumours of postal vote fraud here too. Lots of south asians registered multiple times at different addresses etc.

How can members of the public check for proof of legitimacy in postal ballots in their area?

Northumberlandlass Mon 19-May-14 21:41:13

Members of the public cannot check the legitimacy of postal votes. Any query should be directed to your Electoral Office & Returning Officer.

There is no way that any member of the public (Teller or reps) can direct anyone how to vote. If you saw anything like that again, you can ask the Presiding Office of the polling station for the number to call for Returning Officer. We are given strict guidance.

Isitmebut Wed 21-May-14 14:01:50

“Police To Patrol More Than 100 Polling Stations”

"Councils are also investigating irregularities on nomination, voter registration and postal vote forms."

"In Tower Hamlets they are not just screening signatures and birth dates on postal votes, but also visiting houses with high numbers of registered voters."

"More than 5,000 names have been removed from the electoral register since February."

"Pendle, in Lancashire, is another area identified."

"The at-risk areas are mostly Asian communities."

"The others are: Hyndburn, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley and Oldham, Kirklees, Bradford, Calderdale, Derby, Walsall, Birmingham, Coventry, Peterborough, Slough, and Woking."

"Apart from Tower Hamlets, no other council is planning to police every polling station."

"Most said they would respond to situations as they arose."

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