Wednesday, December 11, 2019

On the subject of postal votes...

I've been receiving quite a few emails from readers over the course of the campaign, so apologies if there are one or two I haven't replied to yet, because I've been up to my neck with various things. As postal votes are in the news today, I thought this might be a good moment to show you an email from a week or so ago about that subject, and let you make up your own mind. I agree with most of this, apart from the suggestion that the problems "at source" are only minor - I do think the system has been abused more often than we'd like to believe. Part of me thinks we'd be better off going back to the old system where you needed to have a good reason to apply for a postal vote.

"Feels like I've been a subscriber since SGP first started, and as always you come into your own during election campaigns.

But one thing is missing, and it's something that gives the Tories a serious head start at every campaign - their hard core postal vote.

That has to change if we are going to remove the likes of Mundell and Carlaw from Westminster and Holyrood, and the likes of Carruthers, Drysedale, and Nairn (just three of the Tory Councillors in D&G) who rely primarily on postal votes to get elected.

The percentage of voters using PVs in rural areas is around 21%, and my own estimates (based on the 2017 local and GE results) give Tory candidates 80% of that 21%.
For example, Ian Carruthers - a Tory councillor in my own ward - received just over 1,600 first choice votes and reached quota at the first round. 600+ of those votes were postals.
The figures were even higher in a neighbouring ward.

It's the soul destroying part of any count down here. We may look like we're almost there …. then they bring in the postals.

After 2014 I made a point of looking closely at the conspiracy theories surrounding voting at the referendum.
It took me around 30 minutes to comprehensively debunk every piece of outrageous nonsense I found on FB, YouTube, and other platforms.

But by then it was too late - the damage had been done, and it's still being done today.

I keep asking folk if they've ever wondered why so many Unionist media outlets gave so much coverage to those claims of 'massive' electoral fraud - invariably committed by MI5, every postie in Scotland, and the 45% of staff working at counts all over Scotland who claimed to be Yes supporters/SNP members, but were actually Illuminati sleeper agents.
They haven't, but occasionally a wee light goes on when they realise what I'm suggesting.

I've been to every count down here since 2011.
I've attended the last 3 postal vote verification sessions - talked to the staff, had the system explained to me in great detail, and been told repeatedly that many of our own get more than a bit angry when an ignorant zoomer claims they're all working for MI5 or 'Westminster'.
Basically, the PV system is 100% foolproof - with the exception of 'at source' - places like care homes.
But that exception can only affect a tiny number of votes - and what kind of loon is going to risk a very good, very secure job for a few more Tory votes ?

In a nutshell, the folk who believe the nonsense have no idea how the PV system operates, and they've certainly never worked as Count or Polling Agents.
Nor have they spent a few days in the middle of a PV verification where we actually take part in the process !!
In fact I'll bet the zoomers don't even know we have people at every count watching the entire thing happen, and can stop the count if we suspect something's wrong.
I've stopped a count before, and I was right to do so.
I was thanked by an Electoral Commission (Scot) observer afterwards as he'd also missed what I'd spotted.

Perhaps, once the current election is done and dusted, you can start looking at postal votes - the numbers, where they are highest, how they can create a built-in Tory majority, and how there's not a single shred of credible evidence supporting the nonsense stories that cost us dearly at every election?

The only way we can counter the situation is by getting as many of our supporters to apply and use PVs.

I did the data transfer from the Marked Register a couple of years ago and was shocked by what I saw. Our vote didn't turn out. It was raining. Folk were tired after work. There was something unmissable on TV etc etc.

The reasons don't matter, but the result down here meant Mundell had effectively been elected before the Polling Stations opened.

And it's all down to the ignorant zoomers who found it easier to blame electoral fraud rather than the real reasons we lost (media, the 'Vow', currency, and allowing the opposition to dictate the debate).

We need to change minds before the next referendum."

*  *  *

I have three more constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Ochil & South Perthshire, Airdrie & Shotts and Kilmarnock & Loudoun.


  1. I'm usually away on my holidays in May, so I applied for a postal vote years ago. I really don't get why more folk don't get them. Gets it all done and dusted a couple of weeks in advance. What really annoys me are the parties that don't have a manifesto ready in time for the postal votes going out

    1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a slightly greater risk of having a postal ballot rejected? I suppose that's one of the things that puts me off slightly, although obviously if there was any chance I was going to be away from home on election day, I wouldn't hesitate to apply.

    2. You could apply for a proxy vote if you were to be away and worry if your ballot would be rejected.

    3. Manifestos are not reliable and as we have seen by the remainers they just lie.

  2. Too easy to commit PV fraud. The 'state' know who the 20% or so of folk that never vote are. Simple to vote on their behalf.

    1. Slight flaw in that suggestion. If that was done, there would be 100% turnout.

      It's more likely that individual party branches get a good idea of individuals in their neighbourhood who never vote and send people along to the polling station to give their name and address. This is risky though and probably doesn't account for many votes. You might swing a close, low-turnout council by-election but I doubt you'd influence a general election. The very high indyref turnout flushed out only ten cases where that seemed to have happened (all in Glasgow) so that also suggests it's not widespread.

    2. 100% turnout would look too suspicious. You only need to use enough to take you over what polling is suggesting. The high PV at the indy ref suggests fraud was a possibility.

    3. Harvesting postal votes from old people's homes is just one of the ways to commit fraud. Using the votes of the habitual non-voter is easy to do.

      When cameron and may said they would do everything in their power to prevent Scottish democracy they were telling the truth. A bit of electoral fraud to screw the jocks, job done.

      We have already seen the postal vote system tested in court and failed. Akin to a banana republic as the judge said. Yet we are all mad for even doubting the virtue of our enemies.

  3. If the postal votes were restricted to the old rules criteria then turnout would go down as the tories would have to drag their supporters out of their homes.

    Dundee SNP do encourage their supporters to get a postal vote if they can.

  4. I think the subject is that Laura K - who used to be a respected journalist- was on TV - at least she was in America!!- saying that they had opened and counts postal votes in lots of places. I would nite this is a crime but she is a conservative so that doesn't count!!

  5. Read the above letter again. Postal votes are opened but not counted as they come in, to verify the signatures and so on. This is done with agents from all the parties in attendance so that they can see the process is above board and honest. The staff opening the envelopes try to avoid showing the front of the papers, but inevitably the observers manage to see a proportion of them. That's where these stories about how the postal vote is going come from. Party observers who snuck a peek, kept a tally in their head, and then told someone else. The keeping of a tally and the telling someone else is illegal, but somehow it always happens. Ruth in 2014 was another example. She got away with it and I suppose Laura will too. Tories seem to be untouchable as you say.

    But the opening of the postal votes is normal practice. The crime is if anyone who was there tells someone else what they saw.

    1. Interesting. But why do you have to actually open the envelope? Do you not only have to rip off the flap with the sender's identity in order to disassociate the vote from the his/her identity? Surely the sealed envelops could be stored until after the polls close. No?

    2. The signature on the postal ballot paper is actually compared electronically with the signature given on the application for a postal vote.

      Anomilies are "spat out" by the machine for verification by those attending on behalf of the various parties.

  6. That's a very good letter. I've had innunerable twitter spats where I've tried to explain exactly that to various hot-headed individuals but the usual outcome is that they refuse to believe me, insisting that they have decided the postal votes are rigged and that's their opinion and they're entited to it.

    There was a blog page somewhere where people who really should know better made some invalid assumptions from some dodgy data from the indyref (I think it was Argyll and Bute) and concluded there had been interference. They didn't explain how that could possibly have happened. (Spoiler, it couldn't have.) That caused a lot of trouble. Lawyers for independence published a blog that shredded the argument, but again people pointed to that blog simply said they held to their original "opinion".

    I saw a tweet a few weeks ago from someone with SNP in their handle and avatar telling people not to post back a postal vote but to keep it and take it to the polling station. I protested and said this was absolutely contrary to party policy which was to encourage as many supporters as possible to get and use postal votes, because postal vote turnout is always much higher than polling station turnout and we want our voters to turn out. To the person's credit, they deleted the tweet.

    But this is what we're up against. Raging conspiracy theories which people seem to want to believe and to be very resistant to any information that shows their cherished belief is bunkum.

    1. And see this informative Twitter thread.

  7. I posted this on previous forum but more relevant here.
    There is so much nonsense talked about postal votes.

    Let me explain as a former election agent how its done.

    You canvas people, you find out your support. You persuade them to take out a postal vote.

    You then return to their home once the postal votes are out.

    They will tell you if they have already voted, you will then know the week before if your supporters postal votes are lodged. That way you can go on telly and say you have good returns.

    What you don't know, especially this time round, is whether or not they voted the way you want.

    Not scientic but at my work a good number of Tories voting to keep Johnston out of power. "

    1. Well that's one way, but you don't know how well the other parties are doing if that's what you're going by. Sneaking a peek at a percentage of carelessly-opened postal votes during the PV verification is the usual way these rumours start. I've heard a few in my time, before social media amplified everything and what was a fairly harmless game suddenly turned into rumours of widespread fraud.

  8. Last Order!

    CON: 43% (-)
    LAB: 34% (-)
    LDEM: 11% (-2)
    BREX: 4% (+1)
    GRN: 3% (+1)

    via @PanelbaseMD, 10 - 11 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 06 Dec

    1. Well, at least the Tory lead isn't increasing. But barring an ultra-late swing or tactical voting on an unimaginable scale, I think we're heading for some sort of Tory overall majority.

    2. Just thought. Don't suppose there's a Welsh version of James Kelly. Else you'd have included them in your links.
      For info on Wrexham, Ynys Mon &c.

  9. FWIW way back in 2007 when they counted ballots electronically, they published the results of each ballot box and the seperate postal vote for each constituency. IIRC it wasn't different in total from the ballots cast on the day, even in close seats.

  10. I'm going to say that the SNP gets 34 seats. But if there are no cameras about and a cold wind blowing then I'll just quietly submerge.

  11. Our final #GE2019 Westminster voting intention on behalf of the @Telegraph, is as follows:

    CON 41% (-)
    LAB 36% (+3)
    LD 12% (-)
    Other 11% (-3)

    9th - 10th Dec

    (changes from Savanta ComRes/Sunday Telegraph, Dec 7th)

  12. A Petition is currently lodged in the Scottish Parliament (and details also with Scottish Ministers) - addressing this and other issues over the voting systems we use, their weaknesses and their potential ability to be manipulated. The Petition specifically addresses Clause 39 of the Referendums (Scotland)Bill - details of that and a series of short videos on other separate issues are here if you are interested:

  13. O/T The final Survation poll of this election which includes a full scale Scottish poll of 1000 to be posted shortly. More info at this link.

    1. Unionist Media BDSM ClubDecember 12, 2019 at 12:13 AM

      Looking good. SNP on 4% of the UK total. Detailed Scottish figures should be up soon.

      CON 44.5

      LAB 33.7

      LD 9.3

      GRE 3.2

      SNP 4.0

      PC 1.4

      AP 0.9

      Survation polled 2395 people living in Great Britain by telephone between the 10th and 11th December 2019.

    2. The Scottish sub-sample has SNP 45 Con 27 Lab Lab 15 LD 10 Oth 2

  14. If they had allowed mass postal voting in Catalonia then the spanish state wouldn't have needed to send in their nazis. They would just have borrowed the english handbook of electoral fraud and sent in the fake votes.

    There is no excuse for any able bodied human to have a postal vote. NONE! If you are going to be out of town during the election then you can have a proxy vote. I did in 2015. Much more dificult to get away with any fraud if an actual person has to turn up to vote and not jsut barrow loads of forged documents.

    1. Totally agree. Postal votes were intended for exceptional circumstances such as infirmity and chronic illness and where a trusted proxy wasn't readily available (often the case for the elderly).

      The answer is to remove the universal right to postal votes. It has had no long term impact on turnout and, in my view, diminishes the value of casting a vote by making it overly convenient.

      It should require a bit of investment to have your say. Anything worthwhile does.

      The abuse of the postal voting in IndyRef was by the second home vote. You are allowed to be registered to vote in more than one constituency in the UK but you may only vote once per election.

      That means that second home owners living outside of Scotland could register to vote by post in the constituency of their second residence and get their ballot posted to their normal residence. Pretty outrageous but all within the rules and enabled by the mechanism of postal voting.

    2. Scots who use the postal vote are probably on benefits and do not want the Social to see them walking to the polling station. The Tartan and Blue Tory membership can afford a taxi.

  15. I take on board all your correspondent has to say, but two things
    1. he claims the system is 100% foolproof. So why is it that at a referendum and now at an election senior politicians (Davidson in 2014 and Raab in 2019) are claiming to have knowledge of how postal voters have voted?
    2. the system has protections - no doubt about that - but like any human designed system it is fallible. The procedure as I understand it is that once the voter has sent in their voting paper in envelopes A and B, there will be an "opening session" at which party representatives may attend. If we take representative voter, then their envelope A will be opened and inside will be envelope B. The voter will have (or should have) signed envelope B which is the check that the voter is who they say there are. If the electoral officer - and perhaps the politicos attending - are satisfied, then the envelope is opened. Inside will be the voting paper which will be folded (this is necessary because the voting paper is bigger than the envelope). The voting paper should then be inserted into a ballot box, without being unfolded and without anyone seeing how the voter has voted. It is here I think there is a potential fallibility. Going back to A, if Davidson and Raab are not just publicity seeking (though they probably are) how else could they know unless at least some of the voting slips are opened out to see who the vote has been cast for? Does this happen? I dont know. Could it happen? It seems to me to breach no known natural law and could be of advantage to someone.
    Lastly, and only in passing, one of the conspiracy theories was that the No vote in Argyll and Bute was remarkably large in 2014. This was "explained" in terms of the large number of postal votes coming from the demographically large number of care homes in Argyll & Bute. Interesting this too is seen as a weakness in the system

    1. Old Unionists should be forced marched with their zimmers to the polling stations. Most will die on the way and the sensible young Nat sis will win.

  16. "The voting paper should then be inserted into a ballot box, without being unfolded and without anyone seeing how the voter has voted."

    That sounds as if it is the way that it should be done but it isn't. At the postal vote verification I attended (indyref) the ballot paper was removed from envelope A, unfolded and placed face down on the table in front of the person openeing the envelope.

    If the vote was exposed it was accidentaly done as far as I could tell though it is true that there were verification agents there trying their best to "sneak a peak" as it was unfolded and laid face down.

    I like your idea, leave folded as it is removed from the envelope and then straight into a ballot box on the table taht joins every other ballot box at the offical count.

    That's sounds like a solution to stop the nasty peekers.

    1. Currently this doesn't happen because they are counted into bundles of 50 unsorted ballots so they can be added to the 'on the day' ballots at the start of the second stage of the count. i.e. the bit where all the bundles of 50 are assigned to tellers to separate them into votes per candidate.

      BUT, that job of counting into bundles of 50 could be done while tellers are waiting for the boxes to arrive from the polling stations after polls close.

      It's a good idea I think.

    2. I like that idea too, I saw taht they were sorted into bundles before being put into ballot boxes and I had guessed 100/bundle but suspect there is no hard and fast rule.

      The only issue I can see in putting them directly into a ballot box straight out of the envelope and unfolded is that that box will fill up quite quickly comaped to one with bundles of ballots in it.

      Still it has it's merits I believe, no more peeking.

    3. Will it not be the case that at least some of the papers they get from the polling stations (ie the great bulk of papers) will be folded. I know I always fold mine (never argue from a sample of one!)

  17. If Johnson wins a majority and gets Brexit done what the hell are all the Brexiteers going to moan about then.

    1. We will not moan but Knickerless will dae the usual we wur dragged oot routine. Followed by Scotland being the operative word in every incoherent sentence.

  18. Survation final call- UK wide figures Tories 44.5 / Labour 33.7.

    SNP at 4%

    1. CON 44 (-1)
      LAB 34 (+3)
      LD 9 (-2)
      GRE 3
      SNP 4 (+1)
      PC 1 (-)
      Survation 10-11 dec,
      changes wrt 5-7 dec.

      The Scots figure for the full poll have fed into the UK poll so it should be a reasonable poll for the SNP.

    2. Survation really slow to get their full Scottish poll results on their site, the weighted subsample from the GB poll is interesting though.

      SNP: 46
      CON: 27
      LAB: 15
      LD: 10
      BXP: 1
      GRN: 1

  19. Hi, In light of Survation and YouGov MRP, 40 seats would be a cautious estimate for the SNP now- realistically though probably mid-40s, a median point between the result of 2015 and 2017.
    Labour will hold 3 or 4, LibDems 4 or 5, the big question, and one which concerns me most is the seats the SNP are up against the Tories in.

  20. Not sure how reliable this is

    So on 45.6%

    1. Unionist Media BDSM ClubDecember 12, 2019 at 12:35 AM

      That would seem to fit with 4% across the UK. Nearly 46% would certainly shut up a few critics of Nicola and the SNP.

  21. The prof gives the subsample numbers as n=910 in the tables for the GB result the Scotland n=735 unweighted and just n=157 weighted?

  22. Survation Scotland final poll -

    SNP 45.6 CON 27.4 LAB 14.8 LIB 9.6.

    Anon above, looks more like 2015 to me!

  23. From Britain Elects

    Scotland, Westminster voting intention:

    SNP: 46% (+9)
    CON: 28% (-1)
    LAB: 15% (-12)
    LDEM: 10% (+3)
    GRN: 1% (+1)
    BREX: 1% (+1)

    +9 for SNP hahaha Looks like Survation might have made a boo boo somewhere along the line LOL

  24. My gut instinct is Survation is around what it is .Im used to getting my hopes dashed I remember the Blair years and losing counts .
    I just felt a hardening of votes towards us over the last couple of days .There are grumblings though but people who are grumbling have nowhere else to go that is the Wings followers ,those who want a stronger push for Indy and those on the left who want a more radical policy agenda from the SG.
    Over 40% of the vote and over 40 seats is a good result .Peak Tory has passed 2017 was a dead cat bounce .
    Anymore is a bonus

  25. I've had a postal vote for 20 years or more - never sure I'll be anywhere near my polling station on a Thursday during the week.

    Incidences of postal voting a bit higher in more rural Scotland and Wales, 1.2% higher in 2017 than England at 19.4%. Probably considering many of us have to work away, and almost certainly higher than now. Clearly "turnout" would be way higher for PVs - just sign in box, DOB, X, fold, and follow instructions!

    The rigged referendum conspiracies were a bit of a sick joke really, one had all votes going down to London to be suitably altered by MI5. The Russians expressed GREAT interest in that one as they calculated it would need 4,000 drones capable of doing MACH 87 to get them down and back in time. Some from the northern isles would actually have had to travel through a wormhole. Be afraid, be very afraid, the Martians have taken over our bodies, Well, not mine.

  26. Survation had the snp on 36% nearly a week out in 2017. They nailed it.

    Fingers crossed they're spot on again this time!

  27. According to Northern Scot weekly newspaper there were 15,000 PV packs sent out for Moray. How many get cast well who knows? We will have to ask Laura K of BBC for that answer?????? Or maybe Roofie knows????