The Birmingham Case
Results of the elections in Aston and Bordesley Green wards were
both challenged through electoral petitions.
These petitions were heard simultaneously in February/March
2005 by Judge Richard Mawrey, who ‘voided’ (overturned)
In his judgement, at least 3,500 postal ballots submitted in the two
wards were fraudulent.
Among the many ‘irregularities’, a large number of Aston ballot
papers were found to have been taken to a warehouse, where
they were completed by Labour Party representatives.
All 6 ‘winning’ candidates were found to have engaged in corrupt
and illegal practices, as defined in the Representation of the
People Act 1983 – though one of the Aston candidates was
subsequently cleared by the Court of Appeal in May 2005.
The Birmingham Election Court –
Judge Richard Mawrey’s definitive judgement
(Monday 4th April, 2005)
“In the course of preparing my judgement, my attention was drawn to
an official Government statement about postal voting:
‘There are no proposals to change the rules governing
electoral procedures for the next election, including those for
postal voting. The systems already in place to deal with the
allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working.’
Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried, and listened to
evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic,
would find this statement surprising. To assert that ‘The systems
already in place … are clearly working’ indicates a state not merely of
complacency but of denial.
The systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not
working badly. The fact is that there are no systems to deal
realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud
will continue unabated.”
Prisoners' voting rights - UK
Prisoners serving a custodial sentence may not vote at any
parliamentary or local election (Rep'n of the People Act,1983).
View of successive Governments – prisoners convicted of a crime
serious enough to warrant imprisonment lose the moral
authority to vote. UK is now only Western European country to
impose a blanket ban.
2004/05 – European Court of Human Rights ruled that the ban
breached Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights,
the right to free and fair elections.
2005-10 – Government considered and consulted: e.g. on which
categories of prisoners to exempt from ban.
Dec. 2009 – Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers urged
Government to 'rapidly adopt' measures enabling prisoners to
vote in the forthcoming General Election.
June 2010 – Committee of Ministers expresses 'profound regret'
that the ban was not lifted in time for the General Election.
Some of the monitors’ concerns – the US
DC residents (and those in US territories) not
entitled to full representation in Congress.
Restrictions on voting rights of felons and ex-felons
disproportionate and widely varying; 5.3 million
US citizens effectively disenfranchised.
HAVA (Help America Vote Act, 2002) was bi-partisan
compromise to rectify problems identified during
2000 elections; would benefit now from more
clarity and detail.
Washington DC's disenfranchised voters
DC is a federal district, not a state.
Residents have no voting
representation in Congress – just a
non-voting delegate in the H/Reps.
DC House Voting Rights Act 2009
would make DC a 2-member
congressional district for purposes of
representation; but held up by
dispute over constitutionality, and
'wrecking' amendment to remove
DC's authorities to impose gun
Voter identification - US
2002 - Help America Vote Act (HAVA) required states to have
state-wide voter registration database, that can be matched
with other state and federal records – but no definition of
'match', and no requirement to match across states.
Voter ID required for first-time voters who registered by post
and provided no ID with registration.
Other ID requirements vary from state to state:
8 states require photo ID; 18 require some form of ID.
2010 – Supreme Court rules that a state legislature may
require voters to identify themselves using a photo ID.
Opposed by Democrats, ACLU and civil rights groups as
unconstitutional – discriminating against the elderly, poor,
Turnout – 90% or 64%?
population Black 18-24
(71%) 70 59
who voted 93 83
voted 65 49
Highest + 12%
recorded since '96
How Americans cast their votes, 2008
2000 - Florida (S o S Katherine Harris) paid
private company to 'purge' state's voter file,
resulting in removal of 82,000 voters, mostly
African-American, mostly entitled to vote.
2002 – HAVA empowers Secretaries of State to
remove 'fraudulent and suspicious' voters
from voter lists, but ensures everyone who
may be entitled to vote receives a ballot
paper .... but not that it is counted.
2004/08 – Most states (without Election Day
registration) issued Provisional Ballots to
voters whose eligibility was in doubt. They
were counted only if eligibility was verified.
2008 – over 2 million Provisional Ballots
submitted; 70% counted (1.2% of total vote),
US is unique among
both in its incarceration
rate (1 in 100 persons;
Canada 1 in 1,000;
E & W 1 in 635), and in
restricting voting rights
5 million were
disenfranchised in 2008,
incl. 4 mill. in the 35
states still restricting
voting rights of those on
probation, parole, and/or
who had completed their
Sources of quotes
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (2008), The State
of Democracy in Europe
OSCE/ODIHR (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in
Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights)
(2005), Final Report on the UK General Election on 5 May 2005
OSCE/ODIHR (2009) Limited Election Observation Mission Final
Report on the US General Elections, 4 November 2008
OSCE/ODIHR (2010) Election Assessment Mission Report on the
UK General Election on 6 May 2010
Royal Commonwealth Society (2010) Final Report of the
Commonwealth Observer Team to the 2010 UK General