Sketches in the Ruins of My Mind

graphic: Sketches in the Ruins of my Mind.

Use It or Lose It

Dateline: 19 May 2002
Author: Johnny <>
pic: Bloviating politician.

Below is an essay authored by someone and somewhere which I've forgotten. IMHO this is just the thing for those of you who are subjects of the Crown and wondering what to do with your (apparently useless) vote but you really feel you must at least make some kind of an effort.

I tested this out at a General Election and retained my voting slip: unsurprisingly it was never mentioned that the vote didn't tally. However, as it says here, if a large number of people did this then it might well be a useful political statement. In contrast to what it says here, Britain is (supposedly) a Constitutional Monarchy - I don't see that this makes us "democrats." I'm certainly not a "democrat"... when I hear the word "democrat" I reach for my revolver, as someone once almost said.

Meantime I say voting only encourages them: just say no!

"But let us return to Mr Prosser, my Member of Parliament. I am never sure when I see him whether I should laugh at him or just vomit over him."
- Dr Sean Gabb

Being democrats, we all have a right to take part in elections, and this should include two further rights, (1) a secret ballot system, and (2) the right not to cast a vote or to spoil a paper.

It occurs to me that it might be dreadfully inconvenient to the electoral system if thousands upon thousands of people did the following:

Go to the polling station, and obtain a ballot paper, noting that your electoral number is written on the stub of your ballot paper. Ask why that is recorded there, when your name has also been ruled through as attending. Why?

Then go to the booth. Fiddle around for a moment, then attempt to leave the polling station with your ballot paper. It is yours after all, and you should have the right to do as you will with it, that is, to vote or not to vote, to rip it up, to eat it, or whatever. Do not give that paper up.

The polling clerk cannot make you hand it over.

Expect to be accosted for failing to put the ballot paper in the box. It might ease problems if a suitable sized piece of plain paper was folded up and stuck in the box, though the polling clerk is supposed to be shown the embossed mark on the paper before you post it through the slot in the box.

It is easy to by-pass this, by quickly posting a small folded bit of white paper. The polling clerk really doesn't care, being bored to death by the excitement of the day.

The fun starts when the counting clerks attempt to balance the account of electors voting against ballot papers used, and ballot papers counted. In a word, it will not balance if even one paper is not placed in the ballot box. This is yet another flaw in the electoral system here, the other being that they could identify whose papers were missing if they went through all the papers they have, to identify the electors names for the missing papers.

But this is better for protesters than scrawling obscenities on ballot papers, or voting for extremists. Doing that, the ballot tallies up, the spoiled papers are gathered up, and the tiny numbers of offending electors' papers could be identified to the electors concerned in seconds, but tracing the electors for missing papers would be a colossal job requiring the whole pile of ballot papers to be checked against the electoral roll and the ballot-paper book stubs. Not practical.

If a ballot station does not tally up, marginal results can be challenged harder by the highest loser on the grounds that the tally is clearly not correct. I think about a dozen or so missing papers would be enough to create confusion, but of course I am not advocating such a practice. What I am saying is that we should all be aware that there is no secret ballot in Britain, and the system at polling stations and counting halls does not take account of the possibility of a voter getting a paper, and deciding that as none of the candidates takes his/her fancy, he/she isn't going to cast a vote at all, and takes the paper away.

Meantime I wish one of the newspapers would take up the question of the non-secret ballot for us. It is a scandal, and I suggest that the system can (and therefore probably does) identify electors who cast votes for parties they think are undesirable ones. I suggest every one of us makes a note of the ballot-paper number next time, and challenges the new MP about it, or even better, shows him the ballot paper!

As a former polling station officer, and senior teller at counts, I think the possibilities for effective protests are real. The system does expect the thing to balance, and there is always doubt about results if it doesn't. We could perform a public service by exposing such a flaw in the system. I propose to. The bloated ignoramus who passes for my local MP is going to be re-elected anyway. He won't miss my vote and wasn't going to get it anyway. None of the other candidates deserves my vote either (it would be a waste of time anyway) so what else is there for me to do?