the Queen's Speech | Scoins.net | DJS

the Queen's Speech

HMG

The government persuaded the Queen to read the Queen's Speech. What a misnomer; the poor woman has to read a load of stuff you simply know she disagrees with, having very much more experience of parliament than any parliamentarian. These are words forcibly inserted in her mouth and I resent the falsity of this situation.

We have a Queen's Speech at the start of a new session of parliament, which is just about annually. What defines the end of a session is less obvious. The act of prorogation (see essay 284) can easily be looked up but the 'trigger' is having completed the business of government, though some work (Bills) may specifically be carried over to the next session; just once.  article. So it is in effect usually a marker in the spring that the business listed in the last Queen's Speech has all been done (turned from Bill into Act or perhaps failed) and, in effect is merely a marker of the next round of declared intention by the party in power. The down time is brief, usually a week or two (but rarely different from that). An issue I don't understand is the implication that Bills can only be proposed if they have already been included in a Queen's Speech; that does not strike me as a necessary act, even if there is perhaps a need for parliament to approve this list of intentions.

However, within that content—the intentions of the next parliament—is an intent to demand voter ID when going to vote. My namesake in NewYork has been posting a daily rant on FB and one of these was about voting and how awful are the changes proposed in Georgia. So I posted that I'd just been to vote here (local elections day May 2021) and that I needed nothing at all to do that, since I know my own name and address. This is required so that the polling officer can tick off my entry in the electoral roll (I'm voter No 1773 in our ward) and there'll be a fuss only if someone else attempts to use that entry. I am not required to hold a document 'proving' who I am. Dave's response was that no part of my action belonged in his world. Whatever that means. 

We have a negligible number of voting fraud attempts (we're looking at something around four per million votes) so one has to ask why there is a perceived need to change the system, particularly to move our UK system towards the US Republican model, which is evidentially producing incentives to NOT vote. See the Electoral Commission reports. In brief: Year; cases investigated by police; cautions only; convictions:  2017 370 8 1; 2018 266 2 4; 2019 595 2 4; 2020 mostly postponed to 2021. The 2017 figures suggest only a third of offences are to do with voting and fully half were to do with misrepresentation during the campaign (politicians proving untrustworthy?). So voting offences were 165 out of some 40 million votes cast. Looking at the file detail, the 'no further action' outcome falls into categories of 'no offence' and 'no evidence'. About 20% of all cases are resolved locally (which I think means resolved at the polling station).  The summary pages I've linked are themselves quite informative of the sort of thing that occurs. 2019 for example; 64% no further action, 33.6% locally resolved, leaving 1.5% with further action occurring. But most of these are not to do with the voting process; I repeat, more than half of all reported cases are about campaigning offences.

Why do we need to 'fix' something that actually works? One can only conclude that the objective is very different from that stated. We do have issues with postal voting. This occurs where one member of a household—think patriarch—feels that they (should, must, do) have control of all the votes of the adults within that household, and that (he) can do this by causing all votes to be postal votes, which are, as seems obvious, quite easy to control within a household of certain sorts, such as where patriarchy is extant and culturally accepted. Fixing voter ID will do nothiing to solve this problem. 

We have many older people in our population and there is a tradition among party workers to assist these people in getting to vote. Quite a few of these people are easily confused and so the party worker is open to accusations of undue influence (which has nothing to do with identity). The easily confused might well be taken to the polling station more than once and might easily also have a postal vote. The voter immediately in front of me this year had walked to vote (in the rain) only to discover he'd already voted by post. He accepted this in a way that made me wonder if he still had the capacity to understand well enough to be able to confirm, if asked, that he'd exercised his vote without influence. Actually, it would be more precise to say that he'd exercised his choice to vote by post; whether he'd actually voted that way was not obvious from the conversation, but when you opt for a postal vote you cannot then go vote in person.

The need for UK electoral reform at all is discussed hereIndividuals are responsible for applying to register to vote individually, and must supply identifying information (namely date of birth and National Insurance number) as part of their application. Personally I found the electoral commission website fragmented, as if designed to fit a phone screen. However, it makes sense that we move toward registration being achieved online. To do that we need ways of identifying an individual with precision and ways of confirming that the person registering is the same as the person being registered. Do read the feasibility studies. I see gateway issues and, as with the current system, we have problems with the easily confused, those of no fixed abode and those with other incapacity to access an online system.

One might also look at this report on intimidation in public life. I am bothered about the abuse of postal voting. I think this should be deliberately reduced, perhaps to a point where an electoral officer can go to collect a vote in person. Here's an academic report on cultural issues that shows that voting by post is intrinsically unsafe and some had additional concerns around the ease with which personation could take place, through an informal approach to voting for others instead applying for a proxy vote.  [missing word?]

We do need a way of exercising a vote for those that are in some way absent. That is a proxy vote or a postal vote.  This HoC report refers to 'proxy farming' and 'granny farming', in which voters are specifically targeted in ways that permit the exerciser of the proxy vote undue influence. Imagine the situation in a care home; while the concern is real, there is very scanty evidence of such fraud occurring, but it might well be worthwhile research into how these processes could be improved  Again, changes in handling voter ID will not affect this. Personation—someone claiming to be you and casting your vote—is, in my opinion, badly handled but the perception is that this is very low; Para 102 for the HoC report says We broadly agree that there is at present no great problem with impersonation in British elections outside Northern Ireland, and we do not see a need to introduce any additional requirements to prove identity before being given a ballot paper. One of the issues attached to this is that, if we were to be able to trace a vote, we could also track how an individual had voted. That runs entirely counter to the concept of this being a secret ballot. There may be wriggle room in permitting tracing to occur only under specific conditions and limiting this to a very small number, those where concern is expressed that a vote was done properly. But if, for example, those who 'spoiled their ballot paper' where followed up in any form, we have lost the concept of secret ballot and thus in large part the democratic process. Particularly, trust in the system, which is an essential element. See para 104, which explains how this is done. So, if I turn up to vote and my vote has somehow already been cast, the situation can be sorted out such that my vote is correctly applied. That falls within the 'locally resolved'. the full vote tracing procedure has not been exercised since 1911, though for local elections this occurs occasionally, though the expense attached (going to an election court) is significant.

Here is Liberty's view. Quoting Sam Grant of `Liberty:  ‘If you’re young, if you’re a person of colour, if you’re disabled, trans or you don’t have a fixed address, you’re much less likely to have valid photo ID and could therefore be shut off from voting. Research by the Electoral Commission found in 2015 about 3.5 million citizens or 7.5 per cent of the electorate did not have access to any approved photo ID.'  'Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem.’


That last quote nails it: Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem.

why?  Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2021