The farce of the 2010 General Election

Less than 2 hours after the closing of the Polls in the UK’s General Election, it’s clear that there have been some cock-ups in the logistical management of the election that makes most developing world elections look like the Acme of organisation.  Let’s face it – this is THE most important election for probably probably 20 years – and one might have expected that such an election would be run in the most professional, efficient and effective way possible.

Unfortunately, it appears to have been organised by people who make Fred Karno’s Army look like the SAS.  Let’s just take a look at what seems to have been happening in the last few hours of polling.

  • People turning up to find massive queues at their polling station, going away, coming back repeatedly, then finding themselves being turned away when the Polling Station closes at 10pm.  Although in some places, people queueing when the Polling Station has closed have been taken in to the Polling Station and allowed to vote.
  • Other people turning up to vote to find that there aren’t enough Ballot Papers and so they can’t vote.
  • People in some places have been turned away an hour BEFORE the Polls closed, and have been told that they Polling Station can’t handle the queues. 

In other words – some Polling Stations have been under-resourced, badly staffed and inadequately supplied.  How can the Local Authorities and the Electoral Commission have allowed such a sorry and anti-democratic situation to arise?  After all, it should not have been a surprise that there would be a higher turnout in this election than previous ones – people have been excited by this election in such a way that I’ve not seen for some years.  We might therefore have expected the Returning Officers and Electoral Commission to take this on board and plan accordingly.

In my own polling Station I saw no more staff than usual, but did witness a higher throughput of people than I’ve seen for some time.  It was the first time I’ve actually queued to vote for as long as I can remember, despite the fact that the turnout is only a few percentage points higher than previous elections, going by the current returns.

So what’s happened?  For what it’s worth, here’s my twopence-halfpenny.

  • Perhaps in some places people left it too late to vote; there were stories about people going to vote at 6pm, finding a queue, then coming back an hour later, finding another queue, then going away again and then finally getting in the queue at 9pm…..why not stay in the queue at 6pm?  Polling Stations are open for over 12 hours – perhaps folks could get their arses in to gear a little earlier if they are determined to vote?
  • Returning Officers clearly have lacked guidance and possibly understanding of the Law in the way in which they have reacted to the queues – some have kept the station open after 10pm, others effectively closed it before that time, etc.
  • Has there been additional time taken in distributing the ballot papers and handling enquiries about Council elections as well as the General Election?
  • Has there been enough staff at Polling Stations, and has the staff been used effectively – when I voted it appeared that 3 members of staff were only capable of processing one voter at a time.  Why weren’t additional staff deployed to reduce the queues earlier in the day?
  • Have some Local Authorities tried to save money by cutting staff?
  • Have attempts been made to save money by printing Ballot Papers to suit the projected turn out rather than printing one paper per voter and a few hundred extras ‘just in case’.  It’s not friggin’ rocket science!

So….if any of the seats where this nonsense has happened generate narrow results then we could see challenges and possibly re-runs.  It looks like the rules have been ignored, and there’s been clear incompetence at a local level.  Let’s hope that lessons are learned and at least a few heads role where needed.

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