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Cheers - AE

Friday, 6 May 2011

A lesson unlearned

Click for linky
There were claims that thousands of people could have been “disfranchised” because they were only given the option of voting in the referendum when they arrived to vote.
Sources close to the No to AV campaign said they were “certain” that staff at polling stations were not giving out ballot papers automatically in Rugby, East Staffordshire, Lichfield, Morecambe and Lancaster.
At least one formal complaint has been made to the Electoral Commission, the elections watchdog. One insider said: "This could mean that potentially thousands of people have been disfranchised."
Yes, it's probably not all that important because the No to AV vote was always likely to win anyway (I wouldn't mind eating those words within the next 24 hours but I don't expect to) but Jesus Christ on a soap box, didn't they fucking learn anything from the various cock ups last year? They said they would, didn't they? From that last link to The Independent on 7th May last year:
Jenny Watson, chairman of the Electoral Commission, promised a comprehensive review of the system after describing it as close to breaking point.
This would be the same Jenny Watson mentioned in today's Teletubbygraph, yes?
The referendum is be the biggest test for the Electoral Commission, and its chairman Jenny Watson, which was heavily criticised for failures on last year's general election night, when hundreds of voters were shut out as queues built up outside poorly-manned polling stations.
And it doesn't sound too much like the test has been passed with flying colours. The picture caption said that Jenny Whatthefuckson was being urged to intervene. Intervene? Bit bloody late for that, isn't it? And fuck me but this is the second successive election with significant problems being reported. They might not be her fault but they're certainly her responsibility, and if she's not up to the task of fixing it then far from intervening she should be showing her replacement where the coffee is and how the phone works.

A few days ago I mentioned a post over at Skepticlawyer's in which she defended, quite rightly I felt, the Australian voting system against the 'egregious misrepresentation' it's received in the British media during the AV campaign. In turn in the comments I had to defend Britain against the accusation that the mad (to Australians who are used to voting on Saturdays) choice of a Thursday as election day was the reason why polling stations ran out of ballot papers and/or time for people to vote in last year's election. Even if you add on, say, a million for those unable to vote to the 29.7 million votes cast it's still fewer than the 31 million and 33 million votes cast in the 97 and 92 general elections. Going back further 32.5 million voted in 1987, 30.6 million in 1983, and 31.2 million in 1979. You need to go back to the 1974 election to find a comparable turnout (29.2 million), but even then only the second election in October - the earlier one in February had over 2 million more votes cast.

That covers all the general elections that have taken place in my lifetime, including those in which I was too young to vote or even too young to stand upright, all of which took place on Thursday and none of which are noted for the problems that occurred in 2010. Nothing else has changed, I pointed out at SL's, yet the UK has become less able to run an election and apparently can't cope with numbers of voters that were managed perfectly well in the past. Well, that's not strictly true as the Electoral Commission itself only came along in 2001. Since then Britain has changed from being a nation able to run a pretty fair election with more than 33 million participants into one that I'd barely trust to sort out a blow job in a brothel, much less get exactly one voting paper per election, no more no less, to every eligible citizen who wants one.

Could it be anything to do with the expertise at the helm (from Wikipedia - links are theirs, bold is mine)?
Jenny Watson is the chair of the United Kingdom Electoral Commission.
A long term campaigner for women's rights, she had a 20+ year career in the not for profit sector. She started out at Liberty,[1] and then political campaigners Charter88, before moving to Victim Support. She is a former Chair of the Fawcett Society, a not-for-profit organisation campaigning for equality between women and men.[1]
Watson was the last chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission before the creation of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights,[1] having been first appointed as a commissioner in 1999, and deputy chair from 2000. She was deputy chair of the Banking Code Standards Board, and of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.[1]
Watson is a director of Global Partners and Associates. She is a member of the Advertising Standards Authority's advertising advisory committee, and sits on the Council of the Women's Library at London Metropolitan University. She currently sits on the board of the Audit Commission, but her tenure will not be renewed.[2] She is a trustee of the Charities Aid Foundation,[3] a non-executive director of the Waste & Resources Action Programme, and a trustee of the Money Advice Trust.[3]
Watson was appointed the second chair of the Electoral Commission in January 2009.[1] She is paid £100,000 for a role which requires her to work three days a week.[4] Watson remained chair of the electoral commission amidst criticism of her management of the United Kingdom general election, 2005, [sic - I think this should be 2010 - AE] when she defended herself on the grounds that the Electoral Commission had few powers over returning officers. Since then, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 has increased the Commission's authority with regard to referendums. She formally announced the results of the last referendum held in the UK, regarding Welsh devolution, "in both Englishand Welsh with perfect pronunciation."[5]
Gosh, what a lot of different hats she wears, though I can't see one which relates to having successfully run anything in the real world. Perhaps that's just been missed, and perhaps it doesn't matter. Perhaps Jenny Watson is actually a brilliant organiser and the Electoral Commission is a pack of total numpties making the job of running the damn thing a poisoned chalice. Draw your own conclusions. Myself, I'd suggest nothing more than that Britain may need an election on how to run elections as much as it needs one on what voting system to use.

Oh, and in the unlikely event that the Yes to AV vote actually wins I'll be selling virtual popcorn for everyone to munch on while waiting to see if there's a legal challenge.
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