The judge in a vote-rigging trial has criticised the postal voting system as "hopelessly insecure" and "wide open to fraud".
The High Court judge investigated allegations of vote-rigging in Birmingham's local elections, and concluded that the city's Labour party was involved in electoral fraud.
Richard Mawrey QC accused the government of being not only complacent, but "in denial", about the failings of the postal system.
But local government minister Nick Raynsford said anti-fraud measures were being stepped up in the run-up to the general election.
Have you applied for a postal vote? Would you prefer to vote in a polling station? Do you think the system is secure? Will postal voting help boost turnout? Send us your comments using the form.
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments. You can read a selection of them below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
It seems dying can lead to voting fraud as there is no link from the registrar of deaths to the electoral office - and the Tories and Lib Dems have been running my council now since June. Why haven't they sorted it out?
The temptation for a computer systems hacker or virus writer to disrupt a national election if there were to be voting online or by telephone would be too great to risk. There is no such thing as a secure electronic voting system. Pop Idol and the Eurovision Song Contest are of no matter - the government of a nation does.
Richard Bower, Littlehampton, West Sussex, UK
I have a postal vote for my home constituency and a ballot card for my constituency at university. If this isn't an invitation to commit electoral fraud, I don't know what is!
Melissa, Northampton, UK
Karen Ruthven says that her daughter is registered to vote at her parental home and at her student address. This has always been allowed. Students have always been able to register in two places. However, they can only vote in one place. It is for them to decide where to vote.
I think it is stupid to be able to send the ballot paper to an address other than the home address of the voter.
Keith Myers-Hewitt, Stowmarket England
How can you be sure that your postal vote arrived and was counted? The answer is that you can not and are not allowed to find out.
L Swann, Northumberland, UK
I live in a flat and have access to other residents' mail. Four of the flats are currently empty. Postal voting registration forms have arrived for the ex-residents, so I could quite easily have registered for four extra postal votes. I'm sure this kind of this kind of thing must be going on all over the country.
The biggest fraud likely to happen with postal voting is within a household. If one family member doesn't want to vote, someone else in the household may use that vote. Also, people may be put under pressure to vote a particular way. It is worth remembering that the principle behind a secret ballot is that you should not be able to prove to someone else how you voted, so that no pressure or bribery can be applied. The only method that meets this requirement is voting in person at a polling station. Postal voting, and voting by mobile phone or internet is wide open to abuse. If it's too much bother for a normal healthy person to travel the short distance to their polling station, then they don't deserve to have a vote.
Fraud can occur with both postal votes, and also through impersonation at the polling station. At a minimum signatures should be required to validate identities.
David Andrews, Bucks UK
How can I be sure my vote will count when postal ballots can be used fraudulently like this? The impassiveness of the Government on this has been breathtaking!
Mark Galloway, Coventry
If postal votes are proving to be such a problem, how about internet voting?
Chris Peacock, Basingstoke
It's a fuss over nothing dreamt up by people who can't find anything important to complain about. In 99.9% of cases voting by post is a convenient way of voting in an era when some people travel a lot.
Despite having a postal vote myself I would be happier if the postal votes were either disallowed (apart from military voters) or at least segregated from non-postal votes to allow any investigation of irregularities later.
Martin Sharp, London, UK
I am not against postal voting but it should be restricted to people who are unable to attend in person. Political parties/candidates should have no part in the process and a system should be set up that is entirely independent of them.
Keith Patterson, Ealing, London
I saw some youths messing with my post - rascals. The postal voting system simply CANNOT be trusted!!
William Poole, London
To carry on with the postal voting plan even AFTER that shambles where candidates were shown to be abusing the system and AFTER the judge's comments is crazy. Anything which undermines what democracy we've got is a really bad thing. The Labour government's insistence on pushing this through is one reason I'll be voting against them for the first time.
Tim Rhys, Cardiff
In my union we have the ability to vote online. If a trade union can get it to work, then why can I not vote online.
Graeme Stickings, Newcastle upon Tyne
If it was the law that you had to vote, and in person unless you had a good reason, perhaps we would get a better view of how the electorate feel about things that are happening in this country and vote for the party that best represents those views. At the moment it only represents the views of the party who can best mobilise its supporters. Also why don't we vote for other issues at the same time such as local elections it must be more economic.
Brian, Liverpool, UK
Although I intensely dislike them, postal votes cannot simply be scrapped. At the moment I have a postal vote because I cannot be sure, weeks in advance, where I will be working. The most straightforward solution would seem to be to move elections to the weekend and make postal voting only available to the registered disabled or those in defined remote areas.
Alastair Scott, London, UK
Two days ago I received ballot paper through the post despite my not being registered on the electoral poll. There have also recently been door-to-door visits by advisers encouraging people to vote. A neighbour of mine who is Australian and about to leave the country explained his situation to the adviser and told them he would not be here to vote and further was not entitled to a ballot paper. Two days later his ballot paper turned up. Something is very wrong.
Simeon Davies, UK
I have a postal vote because I live abroad. I think that unless you have a really good excuse for not voting in person, that is how you should vote. And voting should be compulsory. Postal voting is insecure and not secret. The fact that we, the people, are concerned that politicians are rigging the election is itself a cause for concern. Our concern is real and is caused by real cases of real fraud.
Haward, Düsseldorf, Germany
Whichever of the two major parties loses this general election will scream "Fraud" and point the finger at postal voting system! Scrap it. It'll not increase the number of votes significantly anyway. Lack of turnout is not inability to get to the polling station, but apathy because most promises we have heard in this campaign have been broken before.
Paul, Nottingham, UK
Postal voting should only be available in exceptional circumstances. If you are an invalid or infirm, or for example in the forces. Democracy requires that once in every four or five years the population should get off its collective backside and make the effort to vote. How many people in oppressed countries would love to have our rights? I really don't care if the vote goes down, it's a problem that has to be addressed by politicians making their policies more relevant.
JM, London, England
Trying to use postal voting to increase voter numbers is a bribe. You might as well give a small plastic toy to everyone who votes. The only way to increase voter numbers is to re-engage the population.
Dave Handley, London
No wonder turnouts are so low. No-one has any faith in the system or our leaders when a judge won't even allow a court challenge to a system that appears to be wide open to fraud. Where has democracy gone?
Terry, Deal, Kent
I am a registered overseas postal voter, resident in the USA. I was told today by my constituency's electoral administrator that ballot papers won't be sent until April 27th, meaning that it is unlikely that Britons living as far afield as the USA will be able to return their completed ballots in time for May 5th. Our votes will not be counted!
David Woodhall, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
I have a postal vote. I applied for it after I once didn't vote because I was delayed by traffic on the way back from a meeting and the polling station was closed when I got home. A postal vote ensures that I can vote and my voice is heard.
Richard Morris, Nottingham
Those of us who register as overseas voters have the choice of either a postal or a proxy vote, but what we aren't told is that ballot papers for postal votes will be sent out too late for them to be returned before the election date. So, having taken the trouble to fill in a registration form, then get it signed by a British passport holder who does not live in the UK (and who can't be a relative, etc), it seems that I still can't vote in this election. So much for democracy!
Sara Barrow, Montesano, USA
My local polling station has been moved (by the Tories) to a place only accessible to people with a car. Of course I applied for a postal vote. Do you want to disenfranchise half the electorate?
Hugh Ellis, Maldon, Essex
Polling should take place at weekends, as in other European countries, to enable weekly commuters to attend the polling station in person. And for those who have holidays or business commitments on polling day, why can't police stations have ballot boxes where votes can be left by the person involved, say, up to two weeks before the election? The ID of the voter could be checked there before the vote was cast.
Anne, Haslemere, Surrey
Postal voting is an attempt to get more people to vote. Nobody in this country is ever very far from a polling station so postal votes should be for special cases only. People should be encouraged to vote by being granted a discount on council tax if all members of a household over 18 use their vote.
Richard, Thornbury, England
When you are alone in the booth you are free to choose. No-one watching, no direct family influence, no interference. That's not to say there are no special cases but the widespread use of a postal vote, is, and will remain open to abuse.
Phil Kelley, UK
Is it hardly surprising that many people are opting for postal voting given that the number of polling stations has been cut over the last few years? My previous polling station was within a 5 minute walk. I don't know where the nearest polling station is located now as I am not familiar with the location. Apparently it's a church hall. I wasn't even aware that there was a church there!!!
Paul Rutter, Farnborough, Hampshire
Ballot forms have always been numbered, whether for postal votes or voting in person, so it has never been truly 'secret'. However, a court order is required in order to investigate them. Voting in person is just as open to fraud as postal voting, because voters are not required to produce identification at the polling station. If I wanted to, I could pretend to be someone else, who had 'forgotten' their polling card, and no-one would question it. The whole system is wide open to abuse.
Karen, Bolton, Lancashire
I have carried out election duties for the past 25 years, mainly as presiding officer. We were always told not to allow people to 'confer', no 2 people were allowed in the same polling booth while voting, and no-one was allowed to tell a voter where to put their cross. Official assisted voting has to be recorded. All that goes totally out of the window with postal voting. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors. It might boost turnout, but at what cost?
Mrs Linda Theaker, Rishton, Nr Blackburn, England
It's not fraud that would worry me but whether the vote would get "lost in the post"!
Jane, Guildford, UK
I used to boast to my friends from other countries about how free from corruption our elections were in the UK. When I registered once to vote by post the form indicated that I would either have to have the countersignature of my doctor, if I were sick, and my employer if I was away on business. Now everybody (or ominously Mr Nobody) can be registered by a householder. This is shaming on Britain!
Jon, Bangkok, Thailand (overseas voter)
That the main political parties are willing even to countenance such a thing makes their democratic credentials suspect. They are interested only in power, not in democracy. We need a new written constitution and a whole raft of similar measures.
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK
My daughter Julia is a first year dental student at Cardiff University and a first time voter. Her polling card arrived at home and I sent it to her so that she could arrange a postal vote. She tells me that she has also received a polling card in Cardiff and therefore has two votes. This has also happened to some of her friends.
Ms Karen Ruthven, Plymouth, UK
If postal voting is allowed to continue for this election we can no longer be certain that it's been a valid election at all.
Mike, Leatherhead, Surrey
Postal voting was mainly introduced to encourage more people to vote. Personally, I feel that if you vote, you should get a 5% discount on your council tax. Then, those that refuse to take part, pay more.
Alfie Noakes, North of England, UK
In the local elections of May 2003 I applied to vote by post because I was going on holiday. My voting papers did not arrive before I left, and were not in my letter box when I returned after the election. I suspect foul play, although I have no evidence.
Michael Kennedy, Manchester, UK
Postal votes should only be for those who cannot get to a polling station, not for those who are too lazy or don't care enough to stir themselves.
Ken Ricketts, Wokingham, UK
If the government was doing its job, we wouldn't be having this debate. If having our voting system described as unfit for a "banana republic" doesn't prompt them to improve it what hope have we of getting a fair system!
John, West Berkshire, UK
I agree. Postal votes are open to abuse. Postal votes should only be available to people who cannot get to the polling booths and they should provide proof of this when applying for a postal vote.
Shirley Eley, Milton Keynes
The secret ballot was something that individuals throughout recent history strove to achieve. Postal ballots remove that at a stroke, and aim a blow at the democracy that so many of our forefathers gave their lives to hand on to us. This issue has the potential for a national scandal. Postal ballots should only be available to those with good reasons for not getting to the polling booth.
Rob, Gravesend, UK
If you can buy a postal vote on Ebay etc, I think the "system" is broken!
Fraud is committed by people, not systems. If corrupt people are involved in the electoral system, they will always find a way to subvert democracy. Root them out and lock them up.
Ian Helliwell, York
If polling day was two days, one of which was a weekend, for example Friday and Saturday or Sunday and Monday it would make it easier for those who work away from home to vote in person rather than using a postal vote. Last time, due to a delayed train, my husband arrived home just after the polling centre had closed and was unable to vote.
As we have seen, the system is wide open to fraud. Perhaps that is why the government are fighting changes?
Andy Allies, Aylesford, UK
Postal voting should be restricted to people who can't get to the voting booth for some valid reason eg in hospital or some incapacity. Everyone fit enough to vote should vote. People have died to achieve these rights. It should be illegal not to vote.
Jim Price, Milton Keynes, UK
Its not vote-rigging that concerns me but the fact that every thing from the envelope to the polling card is named or numbered when votes are supposed to be confidential.
Kevin Kaye, Scunthorpe
Postal voting is simply risible! What a ridiculous idea! Who on earth thought that it was acceptable?! It is not; it is offensive to the electorate. The sooner we see the back of it, the better.
Lewis, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
Postal voting is open to fraud, thus compromising democracy, and none of the parties seem to care. Under this Labour government we have seen: freedom eroded, some trials without jury and detention without charge. An attempt to limit freedom of speech - under the so called 'religious hatred clause' of the serious crime bill. Now democracy is being eroded. I fear for all our freedoms.
Phil G, Chelmsford
All voting can cause fraud. It is the job of all to expose any chances. Surely the immediate and simple chance is for all the parties to be forbidden to handle papers. Encourage the use of postal voting, but all votes to be posted back to the returning officer.
Bill Potter, Telford, England
Say the boot was on the other foot- that it was a Conservative or Lib Dem local council that had been found guilty of gross electoral fraud. I can just hear the outrage and cries of 'sleaze' coming from Labour. As it is- nothing, except that postal voting increases turn-out. Of course it does!
Ann Keith, Cambridge
Our last local elections here were all postal votes. Concerned with the service of the Post Office, I emailed the Election Commission to see whether it was possible to check that my vote had been delivered, but received no reply. I feel that if we are forced to use postal voting, then there should be some method of confirming that the vote has been delivered and registered.
Barry Vaughan, Doncaster, England
How long before postal votes are sold on black market?
Sanjay, London, UK
For people like myself who find it hard to get to a polling station, I think the postal vote is excellent however I am all too aware that we have dishonest people in this country and people found to be part of the fraud should be jailed for 20 years.
Kevin Hyde, Barnsley, England
Postal voting is not the only fraud. I strongly urge a thorough check of all council electoral rolls as no proper checks are conducted prior to people's names being included as eligible voters for the 2005 general elections. It should be British citizens, Irish/Commonwealth citizens and long term residents in the UK. I am sure this is not the case at present. Please correct me if I am in error.
Tony Macleod, Isleworth, UK
This whole system of postal voting is open to fraud as has been proved in the recent Birmingham case. The judge is absolutely right; this country has a voting system that is no better than a third rate country and an open invitation to the left. At least in other 'developing' countries, they at least get the pretence of supervision from the UN.
Anthony, Devon UK
Postal votes should only be available if the voter is unable to attend a polling station.
Peter Knox, Scotland
I phoned for a proxy voting form as I will be away on May 5th. Today a man knocked on my door and handed me my form telling me he had received my form with his daughter's. The man did not live near me. If he had not been an honest man he could have used my vote. Electoral people here are very lax.
Pat Salmon, Essex
From the comments in this column, I'm truly shocked to realise that voters in England do not have to show ID before voting at the polling station! We cannot vote over here without photo ID - this is total discrimination. No wonder there's vote rigging and all sorts going on over there - what a crazy system!
Dee, County Antrim, NI
If there is any chance of the postal ballot being open to fraud it should be stopped in fairness to all parties.
J Copleston, UK
Postal votes should only be allowed for those genuinely unable to attend in person. Pandering to the lazy slobs, the do-gooders and general vagabonds in this country does us no favours at all. If it all goes horribly wrong, watch out for a swift introduction of ID cards, under the excuse that this would cut out fraud.
Anne Grey, London
No system is 100% secure. There will always be people attempting to buck the system. Everyone should vote, if postal voting helps so be it. The judge is making out it is widespread, I doubt that.
John Cowling, Manchester
Spending a few minutes going to the polling station every four years or so can't be much to ask of everyone - it took our ancestors centuries to enable us to enjoy the right to vote. Those who don't use it should lose it in my view.
The postal vote will be infinitely less fraudulent than the hidden agenda.
J Westerman, Leeds, UK
This system is clearly open to fraud in so many ways. Raising turnout should be achieved through inspiring people to care enough to vote rather than simply making it more convenient.
Chris Dunckley, Cambridge
How hard is it to get to a polling booth on election day? I think that postal votes should be given sparingly to those who really need them and can prove it.
Postal voting is a gift to the left in all countries.
Lyn Pepper, Northampton
I have had a postal vote for years and now my daughter has one. As a young person it was the only way I could get her to vote to begin with and now it is so much easier.
Ros McSweeney, Woodbridge
In light of the proven fraud that showed how insecure the postal voting is, I believe it is time to scrap it and go back to the old system of postal vote only for genuine reasons. As for low voter turnout, maybe it is time to make voting compulsory as is the case in some countries.
A few people can't make it to a polling station on the day, and so postal votes on request seem like a good idea. All the parties push postal votes to encourage their supporters to actually vote. But it's wide open to corruption, and Labour doesn't seem to care.
Ann Godden, Hull, UK
Postal votes should only be available to those who are unable to attend a polling station through age, infirmity not just to inflate turn-out figures.
Stephen Shingler, Cheadle, Staffs
Why can't we vote online?
LJS, Stockport, UK
Surely if postal voting has already been proven to be susceptible fraud, the system should be reviewed before the general election rather than afterwards in order to make the election as least corrupt as possible.
Nicola Landes, Hertfordshire
The only way to have a fair and honest vote is to have polling stations where identity is checked. With so many postal votes in one constituency, there is no way fraudulent ones can be sifted out on election night.
Michael Goode, Bishop Auckland, England
Election day should be on a Sunday. That way more people would be able to vote, reducing the need for postal votes. It works just fine over here. The polling stations open early and close late so there is no interference with family commitments or such like.
Unfortunately, yes. All the parties hope that postal votes will address voter apathy, but where there are groups who speak no English or vote on a traditional basis fraud must be a possibility.
Surely your question has already been answered by the findings of the election court in Birmingham.
Jon G, Huddersfield, UK
If people are stupid enough or plain lazy to get a political party to do their work for them then they deserve to lose their vote because it's been stolen. No wonder politics is a mess here. Either we'll have to call in UN voting inspectors or decide it in court every 4-5 years.
Mike, London, UK
How can the ballot in the booth be secret, when the counterfoil number is recorded against your name on the checking off form? It is then straightforward for an official to work out how you voted and that is the sort of thing we try and outlaw in overseas elections we have monitored!
Both systems can be abused. However one man can send in thousands of fraudulent postal votes, but with the polling station you need a separate person for each vote making it much more difficult to engage in fraud that will change a result. I will be changing my postal vote in favour of the polling station.
A Sweeting, Leicester, UK
I was also a part of the postal-only election trials. I was particularly concerned that the ballot paper was bar coded, and the same bar code was present on the declaration of identity. A friend's declaration of identity was bar coded differently, so each voter probably had a unique bar code. There was no secret ballot for that particular election.
George Shaw, Stockport
Postal voting has it faults. But so does in-person voting, as there is no identification check apart from seeing if you have a piece of paper that may have never arrived to you in the first place.
Paul Ebbens, United Kingdom
If the point of having postal votes is to increase turnout by making it easier to vote, then why not just have the election held over two or more days like they do in several countries? Then people who work long hours or have long journeys to work might actually be able to get to a polling station while it's open.
Postal votes on request are fine, though there should still be more security. Compulsory postal voting is insane; firstly, most tenement flats in Edinburgh (and probably elsewhere) have no individual numbers and few have the names of current occupants on the door; secondly, the turnover of population in central/student areas is huge and postal voting papers will never catch up with their voters.
Robin MacCormick, Edinburgh, Scotland
Many people died so that freedom of speech and the right to vote in a democratic society could endure. But I can only see these two cornerstones of our country being eroded away by control and criminality.
K Moreton, Cheadle, England
Do we want the turnout increased at the cost of an increased risk of fraud? Better to have no postal voting at all than undermine confidence in voting by allowing a potentially fraudulent process.
David Foster, Birmingham, England
Surely if you can't get to the polls, it is much safer to appoint a proxy than to take a postal vote. As a person can only be a proxy for up to two people, this at least excludes the bulk voting scandals which apparently happened in Birmingham. Strangely, you have to give a reason for appointing a proxy, but postal votes are available on demand.
Steven, Southampton, England
Postal voting should only be used in an emergency. It is blatantly open to fraud. Polling stations should be more accessible.
June Murphy, Berkshire
As the postal voting system has proved to be open to fraud it should be scrapped. If the political parties wish to increase the number of people voting then they should make it more attractive. Also the system of cars/transport to convey those unable to make their own way to poling stations should be re-introduced.
Ken, Greenford, Midlesex
Last year in the local elections all four members of my family were allowed to vote using our postal votes. My sister decided not to vote so my mum used her vote to vote twice. She did not want to see a vote to go to waste.
In Leicester we were part of the experiment on postal voting in the last local elections. I had to walk past my usual polling station to get to my nearest post box by about 300 yards.
It seemed like a good idea to increase turnouts for elections, but there are always the crooks prepared to defraud any system. It going to have to be scrapped, and the people caught for these acts of fraud should be imprisoned for life. Their crime is against the whole foundation of our country.
I am registered for a postal vote due to frequent business travel commitments. My ballot papers have yet to arrive despite my wife receiving her normal ballot papers over a week ago. Following recent publicity of the activities of Labour supporters in Birmingham I am increasingly dubious about the system. I shall be interested to see if or when my postal ballot arrives and how it is possible to ensure it is returned without interference.
Andy D, Oxford UK
Postal voting IS inviting fraud, votes can easily be bought and/or voters can be coerced.
Doug Prewer, Sandhurst, England
While I agree that security at polling stations could be stricter - nearly everyone has some form of ID they could bring. Surely the emphasis should be on making voting more worthwhile, not easier.
Chris Read, Leeds, UK
Tony Blair appeared to be a human being who happens to be a lawyer. Michael Howard appeared to be a lawyer who happens to be a human being: albeit described by one colleague as having "something of the night about him" and by another as having "something of the knife about him".
J Westerman, Leeds, UK
Question time and debates are unruly and disrespectful. How are children and teenager meant to learn decency and respect of others and their views when their elected members are shouting and jeering at one another? Surely a debate can only be held when all parties are given time to speak and air their view. I do not want to sit or listen to what amounts to a badly behaved schoolroom. And they expect the teachers to control children when they can not control themselves.
N Sutherland, Brighton
The reason we need postal voting is because of low turnout. Why not have polling day at the weekend? Then those people who have to work late or are still on the M25 can vote!
For those people too infirm to make it to a polling station, why can't an assistant polling officer visit them in their home to collect the vote? As it happens, the nearest post box to my house is outside the church hall that's been hired for the polling station!
Postal voting is an invitation to fraud. I know of enough instances where individuals who are not eligible to vote have managed to place their names on the electoral roll for credit purposes. The system is none the wiser.
Saddah Aziz, East Lothian, Scotland
Any voting is open to fraud. You do not have to show a passport or ID card to vote at a Polling Station, and before the days of the Liberal Democrats we used to go and vote under the names of those recently deceased or on holiday to try and boost the vote of our local Liberal Party.
The difference between postal voting and polling stations is that postal votes are not witnessed, so open to abuse.
Nic, Leeds, UK
I know someone who gave his vote away to someone else (who then gave Labour two votes). The fraud seems to be extremely widespread. It's too easy for people who aren't bothered just to give their vote away for someone else to put in multiple votes for one party.
Postal voting should be reserved for those with genuine reasons for not being able to go to a polling station e.g. disability. Not being bothered to get off your backside to go and vote is not a good enough reason. If you think it is important enough then you will make the effort! In other countries where democracy is still 'new' and valued people will wait for hours to cast their vote and, as in Iraq, face the possibility of physical violence to make their voice heard. They put us to shame. Postal voting appears to be wide open to fraud and it is disgraceful that the government has been so lax in its response to the fraud in Birmingham. It appears that they don't care how they get in as long as they get in. This is very damaging to our democracy because it further undermines trust in the government and in the system.
Andrew Brown, Derby, UK
After Birmingham, Blackburn. Yet another postal voting fraud committed by a Labour councillor. How many cases will it take before the Labour party admits that the system is "hopelessly insecure"? Or, and I do hope that this is not the case, is the Labour party relying on the fact that system is "hopelessly insecure"?
BF, London, UK
Postal voting was implemented to increase the Labour vote, simple as that. Blair is not in the slightest interested in how many people vote so long as they vote for him. Surely by now people have realised that Blair is not an honest man.
Increasing the voting turnout. Targeting marginal seats can change the overall outcome and it's a lot easier to fix postal votes than keep going into the same polling booth. Postal votes need validation. I don't think it's confined to Birmingham either, just look at the last London elections!
Jay, Bermondsey, London
I think the postal voting system should be scrapped for this election, and not re-introduced until the public can be assured of total security. Furthermore, why not move the polling day to a Saturday this would make it easy for everybody to vote and we wouldn't have to disrupt our children's education due to the many school closures throughout the country.
All votes should be done in a polling station with a ID card and totally open-faced so that all can see the person who is voting. The only thing that should be secret is who you vote for, postal voting does not even think of doing this.
Mr T Hartley, Batley, West Yorkshire
So we give the responsibility of delivering these clearly marked envelopes to some of the lowest paid people. Some are only temporary, some can hardly read, I'm sure you've all seen the TV programmes showing how post is delivered. The theft of credit cards and CDs amongst other things. Are we really surprised that these envelopes get sold to some man in a pub for a pound each? Wonderful system!
Terry, Epsom, Surrey
I have just read my local Labour candidate's 'General election campaign - 22 ways to help' leaflet. No 20 says: 'Volunteer to be a proxy voter - we aim to get as many as possible of the non-voting Labour to vote through a proxy.' Very interesting in today's climate.
John Flen, Woodley, East Reading, UK
If you can leave your home to post a vote surely you can leave your home to visit the polling booth?
Of course postal voting is open to fraud, but it is also the transition towards electronic voting. Once the precedence of fraud is set by postal voting, we shall move on to the point where, under electronic voting, the public will have no idea of electoral turn-out and our masters will press their own buttons for the results they require.
John Weston, Taunton, England
I live in one of the postal vote experimental areas. When disquiet was felt over the amount of homes needing 20 or more votes we were told it was a cultural thing. Nothing to worry about? Give us back our ballot box please.
Jay, Manchester UK
With any new system there are always teething problems to be ironed out. This is no exception. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Chris, Surrey, UK
A High Court Judge investigated this and said it wasn't a failure of anti-fraud measure, there were no anti-fraud measures. This is not China, but this does not happen in a free country. Its an outrage which is by itself enough to switch my vote. Labour has no respect for democracy.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK
Why do we need ID cards to control voting? We have passports with a barcode on the back page. This is just another way of getting ID cards in when the actual system of voting needs sorting out.
Graeme Lansell, Bristol, UK
I was astonished that the postal votes that the Birmingham Labour councillors had altered were still valid. A postal vote that has been altered should be declared void, the same as an altered vote at a polling station. People who make a mistake with their postal vote should be able to exchange it for another (delivered to their registered address) or take it to the polling station and be allowed to vote in person instead.
Rod Pudney, Nounsley, Essex
I have applied for a postal vote and have had one for a number of years but I make sure that the envelope is delivered to the necessary place by taking it myself to the council office. The system is obviously not secure as had been shown by the recent case and to try to boost turnout by using it is obviously not a good idea because although the numbers may show an increase the incidence of fraud is only going to increase particularly when one of the major parties has such involvement.
J Burdall, Matlock, England
The system in its present form is too open to abuse. Democracy is better served when voting is carried out physically at polling stations except in the case of disability
George Arthur, Mere, England
The point of the secret ballot is just that - no-one knows how you voted, no-one can influence you in how you vote. However, if the present postal votes are anything like the ones imposed on Yorkshire during the last local and European elections, all that disappears. Not only must you state who you are on the polling form, but someone else must counter-sign it. If people can now see how you vote, what's the point? Surely a giant show of hands would be cheaper...
Dave Bowling, Pontefract, UK
Postal voting must be retained for those who cannot get to a traditional ballot box. But they should be prepared and made to demonstrate that that is the case. Evidence of holidays booked or incapacity should be provided. Postal voting or any other method than the traditional secret ballot should never be used merely to increase voter turnout. Failure to vote is a clear and strong statement of ignorance, indifference or in recent years contempt for what the politicians are offering.
Chris Smith, Holmfirth, England
David Blunkett wants us to use ID Cards to prove our right to vote. The cards won't be free. So we'll need an ID card to vote and we'll have to pay for it. That sounds like a Poll Tax to me.
Trevor Mendham, Edinburgh
Postal voting has been the norm in Sweden for many years and it works perfectly.
John, Stockholm, Sweden
If you are away on holiday, in hospital, work shifts, etc, a postal vote is essential. To prevent fraud in postal or any other form of election, we should all have identity cards. It's a strong argument for them.
Stuart Skyte, Oxford
I used postal vote in the European and London Assembly/Mayoral elections for the first time and thought it was a so much better than being forced to go to dingy hall. I think the more options given to cast a vote will encourage more people to use this valuable right. Any system is not 100% secure, we should move on from the traditional way of doing things in this country.
Ray, London, UK
I used to have a postal vote, but after the last elections, I cancelled it. From now on I will go and vote in person as that seems to be the only reliable way of guaranteeing there will be no tampering.
Edward New, Sutton
ID cards swiped at polling stations means you can vote anywhere in the country and would make voting more accessible to all and would save the problem I and many others suffer from of not being near home during polling hours. We could always declare polling day a bank holiday, that would help.
Rob Brown, Maidstone, UK
If the Government are to have us all biometrically registered then that should form the basis of the electoral system. With biometric readers already being put into mobile phones it won't be long before we could vote by phone using such as system. An all electronic system would be quick, convenient and 100% secure against fraud. And it could still preserve the privacy of your vote. Lastly, the Government national identity scheme would have everyone registered by law, so there would be greater incentive to use your vote.
David R, Plymouth UK
Could we get the UN/EU to supervise the election? I think the only difference between the UK and a banana republic is we can't actually grow bananas!
George Dodd, Luton UK
Today I applied for a postal vote as I will be away on May 5th. I was amazed that I could request that the postal vote be sent to an address other than where I live - with no explanation necessary. There needs to be a serious rethink on the system. It is wide open to abuse - with low risk to the perpetrators.
David, St. Albans
I have received two votes: a postal vote I applied for from my home city and a voting card in the city I am currently working, where my landlord had added my name to the electoral register. What is to stop me using both? Surely there ought to be a national database using NI numbers to prevent people registering in multiple places?
Ruth No, Oxford, UK
So, let me just check here: we embarked on an illegal war, based on lies to give Iraqis free and open elections; whilst apparently our government cares not one jot about whether we actually have them. In fact, it appears that they prefer we do not.
David Jones , Peterborough, UK
Not only is it an invitation to commit fraud, my sister lives in an area where postal voting was trialled and was appalled to receive a phone call from the local Labour party a few days later saying "we understand you didn't vote for us, could you tell us what it would take for you to vote for us in the future?" Whatever happened to the secret ballot?
SH NO, Nottingham
If voting is an important British civic duty why can't those who are able walk a few hundred yards to a polling station and do away with postal votes for all? Little chance then of election fraud and it demonstrates a tiny commitment to our democracy once every few years. If an election mid-week is a problem why not move it to a Sunday? But perhaps that wouldn't be to Labour's advantage.
Bob Green , Braintree , England
Postal votes are a must for many, when you simply don't know whether you are going to be available to vote on a given day. How many people simply don't vote since they have to work late, or decide they want a drink after work and decide they may as well leave it.
Darren Sharp, London
Many people have fought and many died to give us the right to vote, if people cannot be bothered to get off their backsides to go and vote then they do not deserve to vote. Postal voting was always going to be open to fraud and has now been proved to be so, only those who need to vote by post should be allowed to do so as in the past. As one of my old engineering mentors used to say "If it aint broke don't fix it".
Geoff Houghton, St Helens, Merseyside
Postal voting is clearly fatally flawed as it is now. There are two choices; either no postal votes or no election until it's fixed. Was the Birmingham case really the only one? I doubt it very much. Apart from anything else I doubt that Labour candidates are more corrupt than Liberal or Tory ones.
Jim Champ, Epsom, UK
I want to go to the polling station and put my ballot paper in the box myself. I then expect the Returning Officer to carry out his duties to the letter, and not assume that all he has to do is read out the result.
David, London, UK
Interesting fact: most students who live away from home can vote twice, once at their family address, and once at their university address as they receive polling cards at both addresses and potentially can register to vote via postal system from both. Should they be given two votes or is this one more problem with the electoral system?
Why do so many people have such a problem with postal voting? How can they state that it will always be open to fraud? It's been used for years in Switzerland without the hint of a problem.
Brian Bailey, Winterthur, Switzerland
Postal voting used to be for those who through age, infirmity, work or holiday commitments couldn't make the trip to the polling station. It should be kept that way. One has only to look at the fiasco in Florida, during George Bush's first election to be president, to see that the old-fashioned pencil on a piece of string, inside a wooden cubicle, taking place within the local school, town hall, or other such establishment, is the only method that, as near as these things do, guarantees a fair poll!
I have voted by post but in view of the judges' remarks I won't do so again until I am assured of its reliability. Labour seems to be up to their dishonesty again.
Brian White, Edinburgh
So, were I an overbearing husband/employer/religious leader etc, I could insist on checking that my wife/employees/flock had voted correctly? You simply can't stop that. Other than incapacity, there's no sensible justifiable reason for not sticking with a controlled, secure, enforcedly private and individual, SECRET, ballot. But will this lot listen - unlikely!
Peter, Epsom, UK
If postal voting for every elector was not going to deliver an advantage to the Labour Party, the Labour government would not have introduced it.
Patricia Wilcock, St Helens, Merseyside
It is an absolute disgrace that Labour are going ahead with postal voting for everyone after the recent vote-rigging scandal in Birmingham. What is the point any of us voting if the vote-rigging is going to spread among many marginal constituencies at this election?
Richard Robinson, Colchester, England
One way of reducing fraud would be for the ballot paper to be carbon copied, with the voter being obliged to retain the copy for say six months. If any doubt is cast over the part sent in then it could be checked against the copy. It would also help if a small proportion of postal votes were checked at random - the voters' copies would simplify this task.
G J Robinson, Reading, Berks, UK
This must be sorted before the election; we cannot allow a system open to fraud to be used. We should be encouraged to go to Polling Stations. Only those unable to physically get to a Polling Station should be allowed a postal vote. Perhaps we should consider more Polling Stations before continuing with postal votes.
Julie Barrie, Towcester, Northamptonshire
Voting in a polling station is not fraud-proof, as has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland ("vote early and vote often"). It is a system based on trust. We need the postal vote option for those who cannot get to a polling station, but we also need to consider tightening up identity checks. We shouldn't be too critical of Ukraine or Zimbabwe in the meantime!
Geoff Kerr, Todmorden, UK
A few years back, my grandmother lived in an OAP home owned by a Tory councillor. She didn't even know what day of the week it was, yet she still managed to apply for, and use a postal vote. When my father saw the application form, they hadn't even spelled her name correctly. After she died, and there couldn't be any repercussions for her, I wrote to her local (Labour) MP who never bothered to write back. I assume that he either didn't believe me or he felt that the practice was so widespread that one party's fraud must cancel out another.
This is somewhat of a concern to me as I am a postal voter. The reason that I vote by post is that I have to commute a long distance to where I work therefore the only way in which I could vote on the day would be by taking the day off work. Perhaps the day of a general election should be declared a public holiday? One day in 4 or 5 years shouldn't be too much of a hardship for the employers.
David, Cambridge, UK
Why are the Labour councillors found guilty of electoral fraud not in prison? Labour would have spun themselves into the ground had it been Conservative councillors. However we need postal votes for away workers, people actually working in polling stations outside of their areas etc
Jim Kirk, Basildon, UK
The election is about candidates not about parties. Each voter is voting for the candidate in their own area. They are not voting for a party. I believe people forget this fact. I'm not sure who is standing here so I don't know who I will vote for until they tell me their personal views. If a large proportion of the Labour party were to switch parties after the election, the party in office would change and the electorate would have voted one party in but now another was in office. Postal Voting makes this worse, because people don't know about the local issues in the area where they are voting. The only way to boost turnout is to have the election on a public holiday, not on a Thursday. Why can't we all have the day off on May 5th anyway?
Peter Childs, Stroud, Kent
I don't think that people need to worry too much about postal voting being open to fraud. What they need to worry about more is party manifestos being open to fraud!!
Terry, Peterborough, UK
Postal voting is essential to those who cannot get to a polling station, but should be restricted to only those people. It was clearly introduced by a government who saw voter apathy as a threat to them but, as with most legislation introduced by the Labour government, was introduced in a half-baked manner. As a result, in its current form it is wide open to fraud and discredits the UK voting system.
Alan, Chichester, UK
What scares me most about this recent voting fraud case is the response from the government. I am shocked that they wanted to brush this under the carpet until after the coming election. This should have been a priority above fox hunting which was simply a political move to placate the Labour backbenchers. This along with Iraq etc should allow the public to vote 'no confidence' in the incumbent regime.
Yet another problem where we treat the symptom instead of the cause! This investigation has highlighted serious issues with the security, or lack of it, of postal voting. The current system is open to abuse and fraud, meaning that all election results where a large number of postal votes are received will be called into question. Let's not end up like the US; with courts deciding the outcome instead of the public.
Howard, London, UK
As a political party has now successfully abused the postal voting system, it should now be withdrawn until a secure system is available. This is especially important in marginal constituencies.
Trevor Robinson, Bishopsteignton, Devon
With the recent events in the Midlands over postal vote rigging it is clear that it is not safe and should be halted!
I think that with this postal voting there is a very high risk of fraud
Lisa, Liverpool, UK
If people cannot be bothered to get themselves to a polling station once every 5 years then they should forfeit the right to vote. Postal voting is, and always will be, too open to abuse. Obviously I exclude people who really can't get out to vote but they are a minority. Lets not make voting too easy for those who are not interested anyway.
Dave, Sheffield, UK
Postal votes are now far too freely available and are very vulnerable to abuse on an industrial scale. We saw this in Birmingham and that was probably just the tip of the iceberg. A shadow of suspicion hangs over all the elections last June where postal votes were in the majority of the only ones allowed to be cast. We should go back to the days when you had to have a good reason to be treated as an absent voter and being too lazy to go to the polling station wasn't an acceptable one.
Paul J, Kingston, UK
I live in a block of flats with a communal entrance and a single letterbox. At the local elections last year, which were all postal voting, I could have had access to at least 4 lots of voting papers delivered to residents who had moved since the electoral register was compiled. Instead of a five minute walk to the polling station where my name would be checked against the register and I could actually see my ballot placed in a secure ballot box I had to fill in numerous forms, walk to the nearest letter box (further than my polling station!) and then have absolutely no idea whether my vote had been received or counted.
Pat Oddy, Yarm, England
Without any postal vote, you disenfranchise thousands of people who are unable to leave their homes or unable to access polling booths because of illness or impairments. Whether opening it up to everyone is a good idea or not is another matter, but some of us need a postal vote in order to exercise our most basic democratic right.
I am shocked and appalled at the news of this election fraud and its implications. I believe the May 5th election should be postponed until there is surety that any such potential for fraud has been thoroughly investigated by impartial election observers.
Stuart Laver, Leeds, West Yorkshire
Postal voting is convenient and no more open to rigging than any other method. It is usually very obvious when a vote has been rigged and enquiries, if not convictions, usually ensure it does not happen in the same place twice. There are much more serious instances of undemocratic practice in our system (lack of proportional representation, the corrupt party "Whipping" system etc) that need much more urgent attention than this.
Edwood, Malvern, UK
Postal voting is obviously open to fraud. The only people who should be given postal votes are those who are physically incapable of going to the polling station. I don't see why the integrity of the electoral system should be put into question for the sake of some lazy people.
As has been proven postal voting is inherently flawed, although more convenient. There is no proof that your vote has not been tampered with nor that other people have not intercepted votes of non-voters.
Jon, Leigh, Lancs
Pretty well any sort of voting except turning up in person is wide open to fraud and even that is open to abuse given that there is no formal ID check at the voting point. I would rather have lower turnouts with reliable answers than have 110% voting courtesy of postal votes.
Dave, Cambridge, UK
There WAS fraud in this area during the elections of May last year. Those involved would cry racism if challenged, therefore they got away with it! It should also be known that those involved betrayed the trust of their own community.
Steve Costello, Blackburn, England
The only fair ballot is a secret ballot in the ballot box. Postal voting is inspired by less than democratic traditions of the EU. You have been warned!
M Hall, Worksop, UK
I would like to know why the Labour Party phoned me and asked if I was voting by post and who I would be voting for. I told him it was nothing to do with him. I will be voting as I always vote - I don't want to be pushed.
Mr G Barker, Crawley , West Sussex
How typical of this governmment to tinker ineptly with a trusted process, leaving behind apprehension, concern and distrust in its wake. I''m sure the government's response will be to fine postmen £80 (on the spot) for each postal vote that is not delivererered to its legitimate user!
How lucky is Labour - this is a huge and damaging story but it comes out just after the Pope dies and when there's a Royal wedding on. The Tories must be gutted!
Matt Ball, London, England
I have had a postal vote for over ten years, largely due to work commitments, but also because of a busy life. Postal voting is very useful for people like me, and for the infirm. Let's not forget that fraud by impersonation is not that difficult either. W With the exception of what went on in Birmingham last year I believe that our elections are largely honest contests between hard-working candidates. One reform I would like to see is polling day moved from Thursdays to the weekend.
Julian Ware-Lane, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, England
I think this will be a desperate and dirty election. When candidates could win by just a few votes, postal votes may well decide who is the next Prime Minister.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK
There is NO security in the "system". If my vote has been stolen, I will only know when I arrive at the polling station, and the fraudster's ballot will count, while I will be unable to cast a ballot.
BF, London, UK
Postal voting is designed to get around the problem people have with getting to the polling booths... why not just hold the election on a Saturday???
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK
There could hardly be a more serious matter for democracy. If people lose faith in the fafairness of the elections it undermines the government's legitimacy and the whole democratic system.
John Wood, Cromarty, Scotland
I am seriously concerned because of the number of parliamentary seats which have very small majorities and could be targets for fraud! I personally commute 200 miles daily as an IT contractor and if I can do it and vote, so can the rest of the public. The only people who should be using postal voting are the ill and the Overseas Armed Forces. There is such a thing as proxy voting as well.
Bruce V Fox, Bournemouth, Dorset
Whilst I agree that there is a potential for fraud with postal voting, I still think it is a necessity. I, myself, always vote by post, as I am rarely able to attend a polling station. This year, for example, I will be on holiday during the election, but still want to be able to vote.
Jo Hammett, Carshalton, Surrey
Our area had postal votes for the last local elections. It may increase voter turnout, but I have concerns. The envelopes are easily recognised on their way out to the voters, and on the way back in. I also have concerns that anyone can sign as witneness to the voter's signature, family member, friend, six-year old son, care home worker with an agenda. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Why don't we scrap the postal vote, and have elections on Sundays like the majority of Europe?