Electoral Commission expresses concern over postal ballot plans

The Electoral Commission has dealt a blow to the government’s plans to hold postal ballots in four regions of England in June.

Sam Younger, the commission’s chairman, wrote a letter confirming the organisation’s position on postal ballots and expressing concern about the possibilities of fraudulent voting.

Mr Younger claimed that his team’s position had been “misinterpreted” by the Tories, but confirmed that the commission had recommended holding the pilot ballots in just two regions which met its criteria of size, population and ability to cope.

He admitted that he had been “surprised” to learn that the bill had been amended to include four regions without a “more robust statutory framework”.

MPs voted in the Commons last night to reinstate the government’s plans to hold all-postal vote trials in four regions of England

The Commons voted 269 to 166 to reverse a Lords bid to restrict the experiment to just the East Midlands and North East, overriding the recommendations of the independent Electoral Commission.

Tory MP Phil Hammond said the commission’s opinion over the number of all-postal pilots was being “overridden” by the government. He also accused Labour ministers of attempting to “lean on” the Electoral Commission over the issue

The government is championing postal voting in a bid to increase voter turnout, despite evidence that there is some misuse of the system by party officials.

Ministers propose holding all-postal votes in the North West, Yorkshire & Humberside, the North East and East Midlands.

Last month the House of Lords overturned the government’s European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill. The legislation must go through Parliament soon, as local and European Parliament elections take place on June 10th.

In order to cover the forthcoming elections, the bill must come into force by May. If peers continue to oppose the proposals, ministers may be forced to compromise or face losing the whole postal pilots package.

The Lords is expected to consider the latest Commons changes on Tuesday next week.