Thursday, April 28, 2005

Special agents

John Hemming tells us that he will appoint 100 polling agents to monitor specific constituencies.

Like Talk Politics, I'm a little concerned about this, so here's some guidelines from Manchester City Council that John might find useful. It isn't exciting reading, but it is important to bear in mind. Particularly the highlighted sections about intimidation:

The main area of potential fraud in relation to polling stations is personation, that is, individuals attempting to vote as another person in the polling station on polling day. In cases where the presiding officer suspects that the person is not who they claim to be, or has already voted, or where a candidate or polling agent requests it, the presiding officer will put the two statutory questions to a person applying for a ballot paper.
These are:

  • ‘Are you the person registered in the register of local government (or parliamentary) electors for this election as follows?’ (Read the whole entry from the register), and
  • ‘Have you already voted at this election, otherwise than as a proxy for some other person?’ If the answer to each question is ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively, the presiding officer must issue the person with a ballot paper. No proof of identity is required.
There are similar questions in the case of persons voting as a proxy. However, if the presiding officer believes, or a candidate or election agent declares to the presiding officer that they have reason to believe, that the offence of personation has been committed, and is prepared to substantiate the charge in court, the presiding officer may order a constable to arrest the applicant, although the person should be allowed to vote. The order of the presiding officer shall be sufficient authority for the constable.

If the cars of party workers are used to transport electors to the polling stations, they may be parked at the polling station for only the time it takes the electors to vote. Cars displaying political literature should not be parked at polling stations for hours at a time.

For clarification, polling station staff will not allow TV or video cameras into the polling station. Any reports of voters being photographed or filmed entering or leaving a polling station will immediately be reported to the police. Such activities are intimidating and unacceptable. Similarly, the use of loudhailers or microphones in the vicinity of polling stations will be reported to the police.

Candidates (or their agents) have a right to appoint polling agents to attend polling stations. A candidate or agent can also act as a polling agent. The main role of the polling agent is to aid in the detection of personation. They are subject to the secrecy requirements.
    Up to four polling agents can be appointed to attend each polling station, although only one polling agent is allowed to enter each polling station at any one time, and they may only enter the polling station for which they have been appointed.

    Properly appointed polling agents have the following statutory rights:
    • To be present before the opening of the poll to witness the sealing of the empty ballot box.
    • To challenge impersonators.
    • To require the presiding officer to put the statutory questions to electors where there are reasonable grounds for questioning the elector’s identity.
    • To prevent plurality in voting both of ordinary electors and those voting as proxy.
    • To mark their own copy of the register. If the polling agent leaves the polling station before the close of poll, they must leave their marked copy of the register in the polling station.
    • To make notes of improper occurrences in case they are called to give evidence at a later date.
    • To be present when the presiding officer marks ballot papers at the request of electors.
    • To be present at the close of poll when the various packets of documents are sealed. The polling agents may attach their seal to any packets and the ballot box.

    However, polling agents may not:

    • Handle the ballot box, ballot papers or any other equipment or documents.
    • Request that the presiding officer not issue a ballot paper to any elector.
    • Interfere in the electoral process in any way other than as outlined above.
    Any polling agent or candidate/election agent acting as a polling agent who refuses to abide by the statutory rules will be instructed to leave the polling station. If they do not obey the presiding officer’s instruction to leave, the police will be informed.

    By the way, John - don't forget that if those agents are paid to attend, those costs must be included in the election expenses for each candidate where they are deployed.

    1 comment:

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