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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Watchdog against all-postal vote
Postal voting
The government says the general election was safe and secure
The UK elections watchdog has said all-postal votes should be ruled out in future leaving the polling station as the "foundation of our voting system".

The Electoral Commission has also called for new laws against vote fraud and new ways of checking ballots.

It also wants better verification of voters' identity and more funding to police the postal vote system.

The government is promising new laws on the issue after a judge said postal voting was "wide open to abuse".

Ruling on last year's local elections in Birmingham, Richard Mawrey QC said he had heard evidence of abuses that would "disgrace a banana republic".

But Electoral Commission chief Sam Younger said any difficulties at the general election arising from postal votes were likely to have been "logistical and administrative" rather caused by fraud.

POSTAL VOTING
Postal voting only allowed in cases of ill health or absence under old system
Since 2000, postal voting on demand
Statement of identity required
Legal challenge during election failed
Postal voting quadrupled since 2001

He said that political parties should be allowed to distribute postal vote applications but then should be removed from the process leaving the ballots to be dealt with by independent clearing houses.

Parties could then be provided with a list of people registered for postal votes for "campaigning purposes".

Police in several parts of the UK are investigating allegations of abuse of postal votes.

So far there have been no formal challenges to any general election results in the courts.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Such fraud will only be the tip of the iceberg especially with plans for e-mail and text voting
Niall Wilson, Linlithgow, Scotland

The rules were changed in 2000 so anybody could ask to vote by post, as 15% of voters requested to do in this month's election.

The Electoral Commission wants each voter to have individual identifiers - perhaps their date of birth and signature - so election organisers can better check voters are who they say.

That would be part of ensuring people register individually to vote - under the current system one person in each home puts their whole household on the electoral roll.

Change promised

The government says there should be one registration form for each household - but signed by each voter.

The government used the Queen's Speech to promise to introduce an Electoral Administration Bill.

KEY RECOMMENDATION
Each voter must provide ID when registering
Deadline for registering should be moved to after elections are called
Electronic electoral registers which should be continuously updated
Each postal/proxy vote should include personal ID details
New offences should include power of arrest for "personation outside a polling station"
Among the plans, there would be a marked register of postal votes received so election observers get better access at all stages in the process.

Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said: "We accept that we need, in particular, to have a means by which you can identify a voter on a form.

"Now we think that could be done by a signature and date of birth on one form."

Conservative Oliver Heald said: "Last December, the government asserted it would continue with all-postal voting.

"But after the collapse in public confidence in postal voting, Labour must now return to the ballot box as the foundation for our democracy."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the Electoral Commission wants to change how we vote



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