Conservative Home has another good piece today on the need to give priority to electoral reform, even though genuine voters won the London Mayoral election by a narrow margin. I will not bore you again with my views on the electoral roll [cleaning it up would do more to help tackle identity fraud than any amount of spend on government ID systems] and postal voting [incompatible with a fair, free and secret ballot] but since the Times has not published Mark King’s letter on the proposal to make registration compulsory without reforming the processes, I reproduce it below with his permission:
Subject: Individual Voter Registration
From: Mark King
To: Letters@The Times, Cabinet Office Electoral Registrationteam, Constituency MP
having seen rejection of the Australian approach designed to ensure that everyone gets
the opportunity to vote by making it compulsory, as well as rejecting making a reliable
population register, we now find that a proposal for civil penalties for not registering to
vote has been added to individual registration. It's worth exploring the perverse
consequences of such fines.
Clearlymaking it a crime for not registering is absurd, given the possible sanction ofgoing to prison where voting would then be denied. Encouraging participation byfines has precedent: a shilling in 1559 for not going to church.
Forcingpeople with no intention of voting onto the register would reduce thepercentages participating, but since that would look bad the motivation ispresumably elsewhere. The other visibly permitted use of the register is forjury service, and allowing those not intending to vote to be excused would puta greater burden on the rest of the population. However, allowing for anopt-out will allow the self-employed to remove the risk of being called forjury service and their need to insure against it, so many would opt for thecivil penalty (and loss of vote). Indeed it would make sense to offer thisoption as a (reduced?) non-registration fee up front, to save the costs andaggravation of chasing up and enforcement against those who choose to pay.Instead there is a list of required steps rather than tell-us-once.
Itwould be a good idea to inform the credit reference agencies about refusal, asit could boost one’s score. For ECHR compliance and proposed EU right to beforgotten, the same fee/fine would need to be available for those rolled-overto be taken off, as well as those put on against their will by someone elsemasquerading as them. The perverse result is thus to discourage voting by theself-employed under70 years old.
Thisjust leaves the option of lengthy enforcement action against the mentallyretarded, terminally ill (or suicidal)and religious objectors. It does nothingto help those wives who don’t vote because their husband doesn’t approve.
Isit time to petition Canberra for a reverse take-over?
I am led to speculate on the reasoning behind the proposal and come up with yet another, ill-considered back door attempt to create a national identity register. I happen to have been a believer in the poll tax, “no representation without taxation”. But if that is indeed the objective the proposal should be tied into the work of the National Fraud Authority under the “Fighting Fraud Together” programme, as part of a joined up approach to tackling the issue of government issued “credentials” being used to facilitate fraud, At this point I should mention the “Good Practice Guides” for “potential providers of identity assurance services for government services” also just issued by Cabinet Office – in support of the DWP procurements that appear to be central to its forward ID strategy. Can we expect a lurch forward in policy over the next couple of months while the rest of Whitehall is “working from home” .
Tomorrow I hope to make time to blog on the realism, or lack of it, of plans to try empty London of commuters for the Jubilee as well as the Olympics, without triggering terminal decline and not just double dip-recession