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Postal voting versus the ballot box

From the Leader of the Opposition in the Lords

Sir, Councillor Nic Best (letter, April 6) criticises the Lords for favouring all-postal ballots in some regions in June’s local and European elections.

In fact, the House accepted this Bill very reluctantly having, quite exceptionally, rejected it five times (letters, April 1 and 5). Not one Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Green MP or peer supported the outlawing of the ballot box at any stage. This is a unilateral, one-party change, whereas far-reaching electoral change should require some cross-party support, for example, after a Speaker’s conference.

By all means encourage postal votes to increase turnout at elections. But I believe abolition of traditional polling methods is a step too far. Risk of fraud is higher; dignified public civic participation is scrapped; and voters may be subject to pressure behind closed doors.

What if secret ballot-box voting was banned in a general election or in a referendum on the EU constitution? If a campaign was preceded by a storm of publicly funded, pro-constitution “government information”? If ballot papers were made available only a few days into the campaign, before opponents could make their case? Is that part of the Government’s thinking? Why else would it want to ban the securest and most familiar voting system in the democratic world?

There are profound reasons to defend the little stubby pencil on a piece of string against new Labour’s “modernisers”.

Yours faithfully,
House of Lords.
April 7.

From Councillor Brian P. Moss

Sir, Councillor Best makes a good point in regard to postal voters having to make their decision up to ten days before an election.

How different the recent Spanish election result might have been if the electorate had posted its votes a week before election day.

Yours sincerely,
93 Mill Crescent,
Tamworth, Staffordshire B78 2NW.
April 7.