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tighter regulation of postal voting

Comment 2nd July 2010

Postal voting should not be available on demand.  I am not well informed about the details of existing regulations, but  — basing my views on newspaper reports and anecdotal evidence — I believe that the current system is being abused.

I think most of us would agree that the institution of the secret ballot is one of the great achievements of British democracy.  It gave (gives) women and subordinates (including children over the age of 18) in patriarchal households the freedom to express their political preferences free from interference and coercion.  As I understand the current system, it is now possible for postal ballots to be obtained, on demand, for entire households.  If this is indeed the case, I fail to see how one can guarantee freedom from coercion for all members of a household.  If the ballot is not secret, then freedom and democracy are diminished.

Of course I agree that absentee ballots should be available for people who are unavoidably out of the country on polling day.  The same applies to students living away from home, people who are housebound or who know they will be unable, for whatever provable reason, to go to their local polling station on election day.  But I am convinced that people should not be allowed to use postal votes simply because they want to.  The risks are simply too great.

If it transpires that I am misinformed about current regulations, I apologise for wasting your time. 

Why does this matter?

Oh dear.  I think I made that clear above.  But I repeat:  The secrecy of the ballot should be upheld with the greatest of rigour.  Only secret ballots ensure that citizens cast their votes free from interference and coercion.  If postal ballots are available on demand, then the guarantee of secrecy is compromised.  The same is true, of course, in the case of online voting.

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