Monday, 10 January 2011

What to Do?

What with the latest developments in the housing allocations scandal there have been numerous comments on the blogosphere etc wondering what to do, with many suggesting that the solution is to vote these chancers out. Leaving aside the question of who to support in their place, I have to point out that there may be a few difficulties with that.

A major problem is that turnout in local elections is shockingly low and Nottingham is no different. In 2007, turnout was 32.1%, up from 29.1% in 2003. So, in response to my blogging colleague Alanadale's question, I fear that yes, this city is too apathetic to effect significant and lasting change at the ballot box in the near future. But please don't let my pessimism stop you trying.

Strangely though, while turnout is only slowly creeping up, applications for postal votes are rocketing. In 2003, there were 10,893, by the 2007 elections this had risen to 19,601 and by April last year the number of postal vote applications stood at 31,591, out of a total city electorate of 191,994. This means that 16.5% of potential votes are postal and the numbers are increasing rapidly.

The problem is that the Electoral Reform Society sees postal voting as a major source of electoral fraud so it follows that more postal voting will mean more fraud. Comparing the actual voting figures from 2007 with the number of postal votes cast there are few if any constituencies where the majorities of the elected candidates exceeded the number of postal votes meaning that postal voting could be pivotal.

Clearly this argument is based entirely on potentials, coulds and what-ifs but it is surely enough to raise concerns. After all, I wouldn't have believed that the housing scandal could have happened until it was reported and if there are enough willing to actively engage in fraud or follow orders supporting that amongst housing staff there are probably enough to do so within the elections service.

A final thought. In 2007 when support for Labour nationally was in decline, the vote for Labour actually increased in the NCC elections that year. Postal voting had nearly doubled since the previous election. As evidence goes that's circumstantial at best but I smell a rat.

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