Instrumental in Tory rigging of UK elections?
|Interest of||Peter Lilley|
Idox Elections, incorporating Strand Electoral Management Services and Halarose, is the most important electoral services provider in the United Kingdom, delivering digital software and services to UK central government and almost all of UK local authorities. Over one hundred councils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use Idox Elections’ election management and postal vote verification software and almost one third of all the voters in the UK are registered to vote with local authorities that use its electoral registration software.
As well as Electoral Registration, Idox Elections is focused upon its Postal Vote Management System (PVMS):
- "From print to PVMS, from canvass tablets to call centre solutions, and from electronic voting to electoral data mining, we’ve got elections covered.
- "Our PVMS offering is delivered as an outsourced managed service, tailored to meet your needs. This provides a 'pop-up shop' with all hardware along with a dedicated Project Manager and Technical Support on site for the duration of the election. This ensures you can run your postal vote opening sessions with complete security and confidence. If required, the solution can be moved to a count centre on polling day."
|Laura Kuenssberg's #PostalVoteGate|
On 11 December 2019, the BBC's Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg appeared to have broken Electoral Law by revealing on the BBC's Politics Live programme confidential information about how Postal Voters had cast their vote prior to 10pm on polling day in the UK/2019 General Election:
- "The postal votes, of course, have already arrived. The parties – they’re not meant to look at it – but they do kind of get a hint. And on both sides people are telling me that the postal votes that are in are looking pretty grim for Labour in a lot of parts of the country.”
Responding to Kuenssberg’s apparent unlawful admission, LBC Producer, Ava-Santina tweeted:
- “The reason broadcasters are not allowed to reveal postal votes before 10pm polling day is it influences the vote. I really have no explanation of how this is allowed under broadcasting code.”
Copeland by-election concerns
In March 2017 concerns were raised by Applied IF Limited, a firm of electoral analysts, about the apparent unlawfulness of the conduct of the 2017 Copeland by-election last week – and subsequently, video footage in which a BBC reporter talked about the ‘unusual’ handling of the trays used for ballot papers and separate footage in which BBC Question Time host David Dimbleby announced that Labour had held Copeland then quickly retracted it.
The figure of 9,000 is broadly in line with that reported for the 2015 General Election, in spite of what is later confirmed as the lower turnout in 2017. As the BBC’s Tom Bateman observed around 3am, the voting trays were still empty. An eyewitness at the scene reports that reports were circulating that Labour were ahead – until ‘boxes of postal votes arrived‘ at 1am. Sky’s Boadle knew at least roughly how many postal votes had been cast before midnight and pictures were taken earlier in the evening of paper bags of postal votes waiting to be counted, as the photograph (above) from a Daily Express page covering the by-election showed.
So why were boxes of postal votes arriving at 1am – long after Dimbleby and others were reporting a Labour hold? These late-arriving votes are extremely unlikely to be postal votes handed in at polling stations on the day – in the 2015 General Election, the total number of postal votes handed in was just 157 – such votes are counted and recorded separately, so the exact figure is known for 2015.
But, significantly, not yet for 2017. The number of postal votes – indicated approximately by Sky’s Tom Boadle above – was about the same as the number returned in the 2015 General Election, which had a significantly higher turnout (2015 63.8% v 51.4% 2017). Even though postal vote ‘turnout’ might hold up better at a by-election than in-person votes, in the context of the ‘unusual’ behaviour commented on by Bateman, it’s a cause for concern that merits investigation.
Nine thousand postal votes
The SKWAWKBOX has been advised that Idox, an electoral services company of which senior Tory MP Peter Lilley is a director, ran the election on behalf of the local authority. The SKWAWKBOX contacted Idox today, but a spokeswoman advised she was not permitted to confirm and only the local authority could do so.
So, we now have a situation in which:
- BBC and other announcers said Labour had held Copeland; others report it as ‘too close to call’.
- the BBC reporter on the scene commented on the ‘unusual’ emptiness of the ballot trays and absence from view of the cast, counted ballots.
- a figure of 9,000 was given for the total number of postal votes before midnight on election day.
- postal votes were photographed in bags already at the venue waiting to be counted.
- over an hour later, at 1am, large quantites of supposed postal votes in boxes turn up at the venue to be counted.
- just after 3am on the 24th, Tory candidate Trudy Harrison is announced the winner of the 2017 Copeland by-election by just a whisker below 7 full percentage points, or 2,147 votes out of just over 31,000, which is not really ‘too close to call’, let alone a ‘Labour hold’.
Idox Elections has had a hand in providing count software, including postal vote management support, among other services, for elections since at least 2012.
Concerns have been raised with the Electoral Commission about the involvement with Idox of former Tory Cabinet minister Peter Lilley, who is a senior non-executive director. When appointed as a director, during the infancy of the firm, executives told shareholders he “brings with him a wealth of experience of central and local government, which we believe will be of considerable benefit to the group, especially as it seeks to achieve an increasingly strategic role with both local and central government”.
Objectors have questioned the rationale of awarding contracts to Idox when it has links to one political party, and about the “creeping privatisation” of elections. One objector who has lodged a complaint said:
- “Elections should be free of any issue that might raise any questions.”
Chris Highcock of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland said:
- “Idox is one of a number of companies that supplies various support to returning officers across Scotland, and indeed the UK, as they deliver elections.
- “Such suppliers provide services including, for example, the printing of ballot papers and poll cards. All such contracts are awarded by the individual returning officers on the basis of what will provide the best value and quality with the interests of the voter always at the heart of all our activities and contracts.”
After one concerned person asked about the use of “Peter Lilley’s firm”, the Scottish Government responded:
- “The awarding of contracts to Idox, or other commercial companies, was a matter for individual counting officers to decide. The Scottish Government was not involved in this process.”
During the 2015 General Election, a team from Idox helped deliver its PVMS in local authorities across Scotland. Company details show that work began almost two weeks before polling day, with staff arriving on-site to set up the system and meet temporary staff “employed to open and scan the postal vote statement and ballot papers”. According to Idox:
- "The system helps to ensure postal votes are authentic by comparing voters’ original postal vote application (PVA) with the postal vote statement (PVS). The software compares the two forms using two unique identifiers – signature and date of birth."
Stolen ballot papers
In April 2015 a van, containing more than 200,000 ballot papers that were being taken to two constituencies - Hastings and Rye and Eastbourne - ahead of voting in the General Election on 7 May 2015, was stolen. In March 2017, a commentator remarked:
- "You’d think that when the Police in 2017 are investigating the Tory Party in more than 2 dozen constituencies concerning 2015 election irregularities, that a van with 200,000 ballot papers on board, destined for East Sussex being stolen from a street in East London in the same year 2015, might be seen as being a little suspicious?
- "It seems a wee bit strange that there’s nothing in the press or on the net as to the outcome of the investigation into 'a white Mercedes Benz Sprinter registration KN64 UPD with 200,000 Ballot Papers having been stolen in 2015 ever being recovered.' Unless of course someone knows different!"
Cameron touts for postal votes
In February 2014, the then Prime Minister David Cameron wrote from Conservative Campaign Headquarters to each voter on the UK electoral register soliciting them to apply for a postal vote, and return their signed applications "Freepost" to: The Conservative Party, 1-7 Langleys Road, Birmingham, B29 6HR.
This is the text of the PM's letter:
- Dear Voter,
- Apply for a postal vote today and help us secure an EU Referendum
- This year's European Parliamentary election is the most important in a generation.
- For the first time since the Eurozone crisis, you get to have your say on Britain's relationship with the EU.
- That's why I am asking you to consider applying to vote by post - so you have the peace of mind that you'll still have your say even if you are away, ill or busy on election day.
- And if you prefer to vote in person, you can still take your postal vote to your local polling station and place it in the ballot box. Signing up for a postal vote puts you in control and ensures your voice will be heard whatever happens.
- Europe needs to change
- Since becoming Prime Minister I've already taken tough action to stand up for Britain in Europe by:
- Cutting the EU budget to protect British taxpayers;
- Vetoing a new EU treaty that would have given more powers to Brussels; and,
- Refusing to spend British taxes on bailing out the euro.
- My position on Europe is this:
- 1. The EU needs fundamental change so it works for Britain.
- 2. I will do my best to negotiate a better deal for the British taxpayer and our country.
- 3. When those negotiations are complete, the British people will have their say in an in-out referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU under the new negotiated agreement. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats oppose this plan and want to deny you a say, while UKIP simply can't deliver.
- If I am Prime Minister after the next general election, there will be an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. This is my personal pledge to you.
- Only the Conservatives can deliver real change in Europe - and the European election this year is a hugely important step to securing it.
- How to help us secure that referendum
- This election is a chance to send a message to Brussels that the EU must work for Britain if we are to remain a member.
- So apply for a postal vote today and help us secure an in-out referendum by voting Conservative in this year's crucial European election.
- Yours sincerely,
- David Cameron
- Prime Minister
- (Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party both of 4 Matthew Parker Street, London SW1H 9HQ - www.conservatives.com)
Tories came third
David Cameron's efforts with postal voters appear not to have significantly influenced the result of the May 2014 European Parliamentary elections, since the UK Independence Party topped the poll with 26.6% of the national vote and won 24 seats overall. Labour came second with 24.4% of the vote and 20 seats, ahead of the Tories with 23.1% and 19 seats.
|Document:Tory in Charge of Entire Scottish Council Election Count||Article||29 April 2017||Mel Kelly||Being a software engineer myself, my first thought was - could this be easily used to print replacement postal votes with the voters' ID and their signature, changing our vote for a different candidate while binning your postal vote? I had to conclude yes it could.|
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