Sunday, 12 June 2011

Some More on Postal Votes

I've written before about my suspicion of postal votes in Nottingham and, once the 2011 elections had gone by I tried to find out the figures for postal voting that time round. However my search for knowledge was stymied by my FoI request being deemed to be 'vexatious'.

Temporarily stymied that is because someone kindly sent me the figures anyway. They shall remain anonymous but they know who they are and they have my thanks. I should say that this person had the figures entirely legitimately and there is no reason why they couldn't pass them on to whoever they liked so no skullduggery has taken place. Oh and so as not to waste their time, as you can see I have contacted Information Governance at NCC and withdrawn my request for which they are no doubt very grateful.

So, I have tabulated the figures for postal voting from the last three elections (and yes, it took me bloody ages, thank you) and you can download the pdf here. I have included figures for the turnout, actual numbers of votes cast and number of registered voters and I have calculated the postal votes as percentages of both votes cast and registered voters.

First thing to note is that overall turnout increased significantly this time round, probably largely due to the referendum being held on the same day. As you also will be aware, Labour increased its majority again, including the total removal of any Lib Dem representation on the council. The figures show that postal voting increased again, in absolute numbers, the proportion of votes cast and as a proportion of the total electorate.

In the last three elections, the proportion of votes cast that were postal votes went from 19.2% in 2003, to 30.9% in 2007 and on to 32.7% in 2011. Expressed as a proportion of the total electorate the figures are 5.57%, 10.2% and 12.0%.This last increase is not as great in percentage terms as that between 2003-2007 but the rules on postal voting were relaxed during this period so that's when you'd expect the bigger jump.

According to a previous FoI the number of postal vote applications in April 2010 was 31,591. The number of postal votes cast in May 2011 was 23,986 which demonstrates clearly that those who applied for a postal vote were much more likely to actually get round to voting than those who chose to stick with voting in person, around 75% compared to 25% for non-postal voters. You'd perhaps expect this because, having made the effort to arrange the postal vote it would be daft not to use it. But it's still a pretty big gulf nonetheless.

I'm not sure how much a story we can derive from individual ward figures, although the two wards with the highest rate of postal voting as a proportion of votes cast happen to be Aspley and Bestwood (both 43.5%), homes to the Deputy Leader and the last two Lord Mayors respectively. St Ann's isn't far behind at 38.9% (JoCo's ward). However we should perhaps read more into the fact that such figures are partly down to low voting turn-out, especially in St Ann's. Compare these to the numbers in Wollaton West with its highest overall turn-out of 51.7%, postal vote rate of 27.2% of votes cast (relatively low) and 14.1% of the electorate (relatively high). And they elected Tories.

So the trend that made me suspicious before i.e. postal voting rates increasing with Labour's majority continues. However, the trend is not so pronounced this time round and it has to be said that in 2007 it was in the context of a nationwide drop in Labour support, whereas this time it seems pretty clear that Labour, in the East Midlands at least, has benefited from a protest vote against the coalition government. And as I said before, all this info could only ever be described as circumstantial evidence anyway.

Feel free to add your own theories in the comments.


Paulb said...

The vexatious response is rubbish - an any reference to you as an individual irrelevant, as you obviously know from your excellent response via WDTK.

If there's any help I can provide, let me know. When organisations obstruct people in this way, I think it's worth throwing more attention their way.

Andy said...

Thanks Paul, we'll see how it goes.

Funnily enough someone else has copied and pasted my other request and submitted it themselves.

I genuinely have no connection with them. Be interesting to see how he gets on.