Friday, 14 March 2008

How to Vote (pt 1)

Local elections are coming up in May and a few stories about voting have caught my eye over the last couple of weeks.

Taking them in chronological order, firstly the Divisional Court has held in Pilling v Reynolds [2008] EWHC 316 (QB) that a '\' next to a name on a ballot paper can be counted as a vote, even though it wasn't in the right box. This would seem to be right, to hold otherwise would be to do quite a damage to Ruffle v Rogers. When I started to write this post the case was only reported on Lawtel (full judgment Edit: I can't seem to get the darn Lawtel links to work at the mo), but thanks to my brilliant tardiness it can now also be accessed via Westlaw or LexisNexis, but not it seems via any non-subscription services (Edit: It is on BAILII, just they called it Re Burnley Local Government Election).

There has been quite a bit of coverage about Eshaq Khan, a Conservative Councillor in Slough who has been found guilty of vote rigging. At least 145 postal votes were faked, probably hundreds in total, making his 120 vote majority look a tad vulnerable. The Times has followed this up with several articles about postal voting, such as this, this, this and this leader. Richard Mawrey QC gave the judgment.

Postal voting is just one of the many concerns surrounding the Zimbabwean elections on Saturday. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mugabe might just clinch it.

It appears that Youtube has been hit by vote rigging of some sort as well, after a change at the top of it's most watched video leaderboard. Is Youtube still even going? The explanation appears to be that the video was tagged with "hot" and "sex", a throwback to the days before cats controlled the internet.

Then yesterday's Guardian carried a report on its front page about proposals to reform electoral legislation to encourage greater participation. Apparently the quite ridiculous combination of alternative or supplementary votes (not clear which) AND compulsory participation is being mooted. Ken Ritchie, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society has responded to these proposals. See also the view over at Make My Vote Count. How long before somebody suggests tagging ballot papers with "hot" and "sex" to increase voter turnout? Actually, it looks like I just did. Patent pending.

Also buried within the Guardian was this report about the value of influence-peddling to MPs. The research paper, 'MPs For Sale? Estimating Returns to Office in Post-War British Politics', has been carried out by two Harvard researchers and there is a brief summary available as well. There is also a little bit of analysis about their statistical analysis.

And finally, Bhutan has become the world's newest democracy, possibly inspired by Slough.