First, a quick summary of my argument:
- I accept that all parties have probably engaged in fraud at the local level to some extent. However, in the last few years (and last year in particular) Labour members have been disproportionately involved in this.
- Labour's initial support for extending postal voting and the pushing of all-postal votes was based on the calculation that it would disproportionately increase their own support. This is not in itself unreasonable,
- At the national level, in the face of increasing evidence of fraud over the last couple of years, Labour have consistently downplayed the seriousness of it and refused a number of opportunities to do anything about it. There is strong evidence that they did not want to do anything about it because they believed that making postal voting harder would damage their vote disproportionately. In many other walks of life, such behaviour would be considered criminally negligent.
It's this combination - the national party making rules which local parties can abuse, and then refusing to fix them in the face of strong evidence that this is happening - that I believe justifies my claim that Labour rigs elections.
Many of the links below are to the Times which you may need to register for to read and which will stop working 7 days after the article is published, sorry.
The postal voting system is completely insane. You can apply for a voting form to be sent to any address. Anyone can make up their own application form and ask for it to be returned via them. Completed voting forms have to be accepted by the Returning Officer however they reach him or her, and if they contain any alterations they are still valid if the intent is clear. The Returning Officer has no power to check any of the signatures, witness names and addresses etc on either the application form for a postal vote or on the documents accompanying a returned postal vote. Indeed, in the Birmingham case the police found strong evidence of hundreds of postal votes being filled in en masse in a warehouse, but the recovered votes were nonetheless added to the count.
Over the last few years there have been a steady flow of recommendations, from the Electoral Commission and others, that the system should be tightened up. Labour has done nothing to act on them, and even did everything it could to extend the scope of the all-postal voting experiments last year.
Ministers ditched vital measures to stop voting fraud :
Leaked cabinet minutes showed that a cabinet committee concluded in April 2004 that the law "clearly needed" to be changed, and a draft bill was drawn up, but then dropped. The strong suggestion is that this was because studies from Northern Ireland had shown that on of the suggested measures, individual registration (which would mean that election officers could compare the signature on a postal ballot with the signature on the registration form) caused voter registration to drop by about 10%, disproportionately amongst Labour-supporting groups.
The day after Mawrey delivered his final judgement in the Birmingham case, Blair called an election. This meant that the general election, which did not need to be called for another year, will be conducted under this screwed up system. Why didn't he delay it? It wasn't as if he hadn't had plenty of warning of what Mawrey was going to say. Apparently there will be legislation immediately after the election to improve the situation - why couldn't he have arranged to have it before? Apparently he believes that "postal voting is no more prone to fraud than other electoral systems" - which is blatantly untrue.
Mawrey's full judgement, a copy of which can be found at here (I'd like to find a more authoritative source but haven't been able to) states that he believes there was malpractice in marginal seats throughout the Birmingham area (he did not have the power to set aside results in areas other than the two wards for which election petitions were brought). He states that it was a "Birmingham-wide campaign by the Labour Party". In other words, the Labour party organisation as a whole, in Britain's second largest city was involved in the fraud. He quotes examples of 10-fold increases in postal votes in marginal wards, compared to increases of less than 50% in safe Conservative or Labour wards.
There are many other allegations about Labour arising from the 2004 elections in various cities - particularly Oldham, Bradford, Blackburn and Burnley - some of which I believe are still under investigation. In Burnley apparently all the workers in a factory were told to bring their postal ballots in to work and complete them for Labour, or lose their jobs. There are also instances of the Tories doing the same kind of thing and I think the same for the Lib Dems, though I can't find any references to this right now.
There's apparently a time limit of 1 year on charging people with most electoral offences, so whilst hopefully at least some of the people involved in the Birmingham rigging will be charged, it seems that it won't happen in the other cases if malpractice is eventually proven.
Other recent instances of electoral fraud:
- Former Labour councillor jailed for vote rigging in Blackburn in 2002 by stealing postal votes
- Persistent allegations of vote rigging by Tories and Lib Dems in Hackney - not postal vote related as far as I can tell - for example http://www.lgcnet.com/pages/products/el
ections/news53.htm or just Google for "Hackney electoral fraud".
I'll update this with edits if appropriate in response to comments and list the edits here (though I'm away for a week from Tuesday afternoon).