The British electoral system goes 4th


All right, perhaps Britain isn’t third world, and therefore does not belong on this blog, but her ridiculous electoral system certainly is. Let’s ignore the immense structural and philosophical problems posed by the first-past-the-post system; that is a historical hangover that should be addressed to some extent in the next parliament. No, let’s focus on the actual execution of running an election. Remember, this is a country that has no qualms about sending advisors and monitors all over the world, but it seems does not bother to apply those same principles to themselves. Three examples:

  1. No identification is required at polling stations. Thus, if you know someone’s name and address, and they are registered, you can vote for them. I know someone who exploited this loophole to vote for himself and his lazy friend. Astonishing. Surely you have to prove who you are in order to vote? And besides, the solution to this problem is basic and practised with excellent results across the world: indelible ink. You vote, you get marked, you can’t vote again. Problem solved. If even Sudan can get this right…
  2. Foreigners are allowed to vote in the local council elections. No problem with that. However, the polling cards sent to foreigners are identical to those sent to locals registered to vote in the general elections. At the station, it seems the onus is on the voter to declare that they are ineligible to vote in the general elections. I know at least two people who took advantage of this glaring flaw to vote when they had no right to do so.
  3. Polling stations across the country faced protests from voters who were still queuing when the doors closed at 10pm. Police had to be called in to deal with some of them. They were not allowed to vote; disenfranchised by pedantry and lack of foresight. This has been the most competitive election in some time – of course voter turnout was going to be high. Other countries, such as South Africa, have responded to similar dilemmas by extending voting hours, on the principle that a citizen’s basic right is more important than anything else. That nobody thought to have a contingency plan to accommodate extra voters is shameful. It is also odd that voting day is not a public holiday, which makes sure that everyone has the time to vote. This is standard practice in most of the world.

These may seem minor issues, but they are all easily rectifiable and, while they probably have little impact on a national level, can exert some influence on a local level. The system needs fixing. I’m sure Sudan would be happy advise.

UPDATE: One of the last constituencies to announce was Fermanagh and South Tyrone in Northern Ireland. The Sinn Fein candidate won by four votes. Four. Further proof, if any was needed, that electoral fraud on even a very minor scale can have an influence.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The British electoral system goes 4th

  1. Jenny

    Those smug Brits……………think they are superior in every way, but rank lower than Sudan on this one!!

  2. Michael

    Like London’s sewer system, the electoral process in the UK was built in the 19th century, and though both continue to more or less do their job, certain fixes are required.

    The first point has actually already been considered, though sadly this wasn’t in time for the general election. Individual voter registration was legislated for in a 2009 act, and will require people to carry personal identifiers to register and to vote next time round. I think this also feeds into your second point. Part of the problem previously was that unlike most other European countries, the UK has never had any form of national ID card. This doesn’t appear to be changing, people in future are going to require a driving license or a passport to vote. Though that does raise eyebrows if you’re of libertarian persuasion, it addresses what you said.

    You are completely correct that the election should be held either on a national holiday or a weekend, however.

    Though the UK does send monitors around the world, it similarly receives accredited international observers who are entitled to raise their concerns regarding the election process. In the recent election, this included delegations from Malaysia and Nigeria, two huge democracies with a wealth of experience to share.

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