living and learning

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Double, double toil and trouble - voting chaos at a glance

This election was a mess and you know it. Polling stations across the country were caught by surprise as 'unprecedented' numbers of people turned up to vote. People got disenfranchised. People got angry. The smug ones started asking, 'you've been given 15 hours to vote. Plus a choice of postal votes. What went wrong??' Here's what went wrong.

Shortage of ballot papers

Too many voters, not enough votes. Being turned away just because some official thought turnout could not possibly exceed 80% is pretty shocking. In fact,
If this was happening in a third world country we would [be] talking about dictatorships and calling the United Nations in.
Nicely put. This raises the question, what are we doing with an entirely paper-based election system in the 21st century anyway?

Shortage of staff

One to check the register, one to hand out papers, one to keep an eye on the booths...alas for some areas there were
Only two people serving and three booths. In the past there used to be four people and five booths. I imagine these cut backs slowed things down.
That said, the heart of the problem probably lies with the outdated system itself:
Mr Monks argued that extra staffing at polling stations would not have helped because each station had just one register, with one person ticking off names.
People have also suggested that the books lack an unambiguous indexing system...which brings us to the next problem of...

Wonky registers

Let's face it - it's mainly the oversubscribed polling stations that you see plastered all over national TV.
Why were so many registered in one polling station - particularly a large number of students from Endcliffe and Ranmoore Village?
Assuming that can't be helped, they had the numbers down since last September - plenty of time to negotiate extra resources and/or sort out the register, which would have saved us of...


Officials at St. Johns Ranmoor polling station resorted to splitting the voters into two queues:
While at first this was based upon register number, as the evening progressed, this separation changed to discriminating between students and “residents”; the residents having access to a fast track queue to vote whilst students were held back.
Their motives may have been quite harmless, but the act has sparked much controversy.

Lack of Plan B

So what's our Plan B, for when polling stations go into overload due to unforeseen circumstances?
Reports from up and down the country revealed that polling stations did not adopt a uniform approach to dealing with people desperate to vote before the 10pm deadline.
Either we don't have one, or we've a very unfair one indeed.

Complete shambles. In the words of NUS national president Wes Streeting, 'what message does this send to first time voters whose votes will not be counted?'


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