Medway Suffrage

2018 is the centenary of the ‘1918 Representation of the People Act’ or Universal Suffrage.

On 11 October as the final motion at the evening’s meeting of Medway Full Council, Councillor Vince Maple, leader of the Labour group, tabled the following, with regards Voter ID:

The UK Electoral Commission previously reported on trials of Voter ID:

Studies in the US, where Voter ID laws are in place have found a negative impact on turnout of hispanic, black and mixed race Americans. The Washington Post summarised it as:

Investigative Journalist Greg Palast has been looking intensively at voter fraud in the U.S:

Ellie Mae O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian, estimated that UK electoral fraud was at 0.0008%, and that ‘for this paltry sum, the Government is planning on disenfranchising 7.5%, or 3.5 million people, who don’t have voter ID’.

This followed 2015, when individual voter registration led to 1 million people dropping off of the electoral register. These voters were mostly students and young people. This point is worth remembering for later with regards to comments about Canterbury.

Meanwhile the UK Electoral Commission:

To repeat:

‘Almost half (165 cases) of all cases of alleged electoral fraud reported were campaign offences’.

In South Thanet we have seen a court case for former Medway Conservative councillor Craig Mackinlay MP over potential breaches of the campaign spending limit:

And more locally, in the Rochester and Strood 2014 by-election, allegations were raised by Channel 4 News against former Medway Conservative councillor Kelly Tolhurst MP:

The following is abridged, amended and occasionally copied straight from The Onion, Pros and Cons of Voter ID.

Pros:

  • Temper high voter turnout.
  • Less time consuming form of discrimination.
  • Creates new jobs.
  • Guarantees only elites can commit electoral fraud.
  • Current system gives too little power to septuagenarian volunteers.
  • Palatable facade for racial bias.

Cons:

  • Phrase ‘Poll Tax’ has better ring to it.
  • Puts burden on privileged elites.
  • Does not completely eliminate undesirable demographics from voting.
  • Representative Government not worth totally giving up on just yet.

Anyways, back to full council.

The motion started with Councillor Maple announcing he was happy to lose the next election if it was the result of 100% turnout, but this wasn’t enough of an enticement for the controlling Conservative group and thus, a truly bizarre ‘debate’ ensured.

Whilst Councillor Maple highlighted that the returning officer had declared zero voter fraud and that he was concerned with the risk of disenfranchisement, Councillor Turpin saw voter fraud as the greater risk because of.. Momentum.

Councillor Turpin offered a range of non-Medway examples of, allegedly Corbyn related,  electoral fraud, for which he felt that Councillor Maple should be ashamed, including, most bizarrely, Labour’s win in Canterbury. This somewhat conflates the youth vote with voter fraud. As easy mistake to make.

The motion debate fell of the rails truly when Councillor Kemp said it was a Marxist conspiracy, primarily because of an article in the Guardian.

Interlude to introduce an additional definition

Marxist. noun.

a supporter of the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

With Councillor Patterson’s response to this ‘tin foil hat’ conspiracy events descended further, with Councillor Maple asking Councillor Kemp to be clear he wasn’t being xenophobic.

Councillor Khan tried to keep things on track, asking why the Conservative group were scared about people voting. Clearly having missed the previous rationale response about Canterbury, demonstrating that they were scared of a potential voter fraud led victory for #YesWeKhan2018 / #YesWeKhan2019 in Gillingham and Rainham.

The motion was called to a vote and despite the clear rational debate that had occurred, the motion failed.

The result had different public reactions:

But Medway Labour were clear where they stood:

Councillor Maple was not happy with the result:

“It was clear at last night’s full council meeting the Medway Tories have no problem becoming Democracy Deniers – their comments around Labour’s historic win in Canterbury are particularly alarming as they see this as a way to somehow suppress the voices of young voters in particular – one of the groups who are more likely to be disenfranchised by this pilot.

For the past ten years, and I suspect much further back, there have been zero cases put forward by the returning officer to the police regarding electoral fraud. It shows the system is working legally and without need for change here in Medway.”

In the end, its not the role of this impartial local politics commentator to say who is right or who is wrong.

  1. Is it the Electoral Commission who say that campaign finance is the real issue of electoral fraud?
  2. Is it the Returning Officer stating 0 cases of voter fraud?
  3. Is it the US studies which shows discrimination of young and ethnic minority voters?
  4. Is it the ruling elites who would save us from Marxist conspiracies?

Who can really say? Maybe you. Leave us a Facebook, Twitter or blog comment, and maybe through the power of the social media keyboard warriors we can solve this issue before the 2019 local election results are put at risk.

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