Why isn't UK Voting anonymous? Watch

kexy
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I can remember back to the European elections. I was pre-registered and had received my voting card. I went to the polling station where they looked at my card, checked it against my name on the electroal roll, crossed it out, and noted its number on a list next to the unique ID of the ballot paper. I made my choice and put the slip in the ballot box.

Much of this process is necessary in order to combat fraud and ballot rigging, however, it's clearly not anonymous - a simple reference back from the paper's ID to my voting card ID means that the government knows what I voted. Knowing what I voted gives no anti-fraud advantage I can see, and means that the collected data is way more sensitive than it needs to be.

The simple fact that this knowledge exists is likely to distort voting patterns - people might be afraid of their political leanings being exposed. I'm not particularly worried about that personally, but those with more extreme views (like those that vote for the BNP) might not want this known, and it undermines the absolute right to freedom of association.

Political affiliation is regarded as the highest form of 'personal data' under the data protection act, along with ethnicity, sexual preference, medical records etc, and the best way to avoid problems with this kind of data is not to keep it in the first place, as the numerous leaks/losses/exposures of government information have highlighted.

So why is it done? Aren't elections meant to be done by secret ballot? Did I miss something? Why aren't more people disturbed by this?
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crazylemon
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I didn't have to do that... Handed over the voting card and got giving the voting slip ID not noted
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kexy
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(Original post by crazylemon)
I didn't have to do that... Handed over the voting card and got giving the voting slip ID not noted
He may have noted the ID of the voting card down after you entered the booth?
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Installation
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We're not in Africa, don't worry.
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hypocriticaljap
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Point 1
You need take nothing to vote. I've never taken a polling card in to the polling station in my life.
Point 2
You are quite correct though, they mark the number of the voting slip against your name, not your card. This is necessary if there is ever a claim of fraudulent voting after the result is known. If necessary they can track every voter to every voting slip.
This has always been done.
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Student2806
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Well the government doesn't run the election, the Electoral Commission, an entirely independent body, does. Even if the government wanted to look at how you voted, they couldn't.
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memifer
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I always believed it was annonymous, but if you want to work within certain sectors, especially within the criminal justice system, they won't hire you if you have voted BNP in the past and I'm curious as to how they would know that (not that i'd ever contemplate voting BNP...urgh i'd rather die)
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hypocriticaljap
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(Original post by memifer)
I always believed it was annonymous, but if you want to work within certain sectors, especially within the criminal justice system, they won't hire you if you have voted BNP in the past and I'm curious as to how they would know that (not that i'd ever contemplate voting BNP...urgh i'd rather die)
What utter rubbish!
They cannot know how you voted without a court order to reopen sealed boxes of voting slips.
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kexy
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(Original post by Dan1992)
:eek: less votes for the BNP!? what a terrible side-effect!!!
It's a grossly terrible side-effect if those that want to vote BNP feel put of buy something like this.

I'd never support the BNP and won't agree with the views of someone who wants to vote BNP but i'll fight for their right to have those views and to vote for them. :yep:
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Broderss
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It's a hell of a lot better than many other countries so live with it.

Plus it's the electoral commission who does this, not the government, so no one will be able to see your details unless the EC says they can under exceptional circumstances.
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darigan
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(Original post by Installation)
We're not in Africa, don't worry.
hmmmmm.... that would explain the weather.

You're right to a certain extent - the junta isn't going to come after you if you vote the wrong way (not a condescending judgement on democracy across the African continent, more a reference to non-democracies that stage elections in a number of countries across the world), but OP's point here is the important part:

(Original post by kexy)
people might be afraid of their political leanings being exposed. I'm not particularly worried about that personally, but those with more extreme views (like those that vote for the BNP) might not want this known, and it undermines the absolute right to freedom of association.
Clearly election fraud has to be prevented, but the right of the individual for a truely secret vote is paramount to a functioning democracy serving the needs of its people.
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kexy
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(Original post by Broderss)
It's a hell of a lot better than many other countries so live with it.

Plus it's the electoral commission who does this, not the government, so no one will be able to see your details unless the EC says they can under exceptional circumstances.
Firstly, I have no choice but to "live with it" and I never suggested I'd do anything but. I was simply looking for a discussion point.

There's other various bodies in the United Kingdom who could easily force access to this information if they needed it, however.
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hypocriticaljap
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(Original post by darigan)
hmmmmm.... that would explain the weather.

You're right to a certain extent - the junta isn't going to come after you if you vote the wrong way (not a condescending judgement on democracy across the African continent, more a reference to non-democracies that stage elections in a number of countries across the world), but OP's point here is the important part:



Clearly election fraud has to be prevented, but the right of the individual for a truely secret vote is paramount to a functioning democracy serving the needs of its people.
but the right of the individual for a truely secret vote is paramount to a functioning democracy

It never has been and never will be.
The ability to check against fraud overrides the over sensitive reaction of libertarians. This will become even more important as we move away from personal attendance at ballot boxes and move towards electronic and postal voting.
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memifer
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Well to apply for a job within the prison service or the police, there is a pre-application questionaire were you have to say if you have voted BNP, have had any affiliation with neo-nazi organisations and if you have ever had a CCJ/been declared bankrupt etc....now I know they could easily check for former financial problems (apparently your morals could be called into character if you have money troubles and you could be more vulnerable to corruption!) but if you were to answer 'no' to the BNP question then how would they check?
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hypocriticaljap
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(Original post by memifer)
Well to apply for a job within the prison service or the police, there is a pre-application questionaire were you have to say if you have voted BNP, have had any affiliation with neo-nazi organisations and if you have ever had a CCJ/been declared bankrupt etc....now I know they could easily check for former financial problems (apparently your morals could be called into character if you have money troubles and you could be more vulnerable to corruption!) but if you were to answer 'no' to the BNP question then how would they check?
exactly! None of those agencies could check.
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x-pixie-lottie-x
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i dont see how its really an issue... its not like conservatives are going to come into power and declair off with their heads for all that voted labour (i watched alice in wonderland last night )
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DarkWhite
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(Original post by kexy)
Firstly, I have no choice but to "live with it" and I never suggested I'd do anything but. I was simply looking for a discussion point.

There's other various bodies in the United Kingdom who could easily force access to this information if they needed it, however.
Such as who?

There would be uproar if voting data was handed over to anyone other than the Police for investigations.

If we want voting fraud to be investigated, then realistically speaking, there needs to be some record of the names of people who have voted and their corresponding ballot paper numbers. The only thing I believe we can change is how this data is recorded and who has access to it. With not many people wanting to vote online or by post (like I'm doing), there's not too much that can be changed about the way this is done.
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cambo211
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(Original post by memifer)
I always believed it was annonymous, but if you want to work within certain sectors, especially within the criminal justice system, they won't hire you if you have voted BNP in the past and I'm curious as to how they would know that (not that i'd ever contemplate voting BNP...urgh i'd rather die)
No.

They won't hire you if you are a member of the BNP.
Hence all the fuss when the list was leaked last year and it turned out to contain teachers and police.
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darigan
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(Original post by hypocriticaljap)
but the right of the individual for a truely secret vote is paramount to a functioning democracy

It never has been and never will be.
The ability to check against fraud overrides the over sensitive reaction of libertarians. This will become even more important as we move away from personal attendance at ballot boxes and move towards electronic and postal voting.
Dear Jap,
I agree that the prevention of fraud is indeed very important, but, I believe that the Secret Ballot is more important - The lack of a secret ballot is merely fraud by another name (no doubt you may see this as an over-sensitive over-reaction - I do not).

(Original post by GUARDIAN)
"Hello, I'm Algernon Scroggs, your Bring Back the Poll Tax party candidate. I was just wondering whether you'd received your postal-voting form." "I don't know. Is this it?" "Yes, that's the one." "What do I do with it?" "You put a cross next to the name of your favourite candidate. If, for example, you wanted to vote for me, you'd put your cross just there. Would you like to borrow my pen?" "Like this?" "Yes, that's it. Shall I witness it for you?"

This approach has already proved to be devastatingly effective in old people's homes and sheltered housing and among those who have difficulty with English. It is not hard to see how it can influence the decisions of people who either don't understand what is happening or wish to oblige their authoritative visitor. If the candidate is already a councillor, and voters live in accommodation provided by the council, they can, if they don't understand their legal rights, be made to feel concerned about the conditions of their tenancy, without any actual threat being issued. These are among the long-established reasons for the secret ballot. The secret ballot has just been thrown to the wind.

As ruthless parties in every British constituency wake up to these opportunities, elections will come to be decided less by people's voting preferences than by the swiftness and the lack of scruples of the canvassers turning up on voters' doorsteps. The universal postal votes the government is introducing permit party activists to follow the postman down the street, then hover over voters as they fill in their forms.
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kexy
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(Original post by DarkWhite)
Such as who?

There would be uproar if voting data was handed over to anyone other than the Police for investigations.

If we want voting fraud to be investigated, then realistically speaking, there needs to be some record of the names of people who have voted and their corresponding ballot paper numbers. The only thing I believe we can change is how this data is recorded and who has access to it. With not many people wanting to vote online or by post (like I'm doing), there's not too much that can be changed about the way this is done.
The one quick example that springs to mind are the intelligence agencies. In particular I recall that in the 70's MI5 requested the details of anybody who had voted for any of the hard-line communist parties in order to find those that may have been particularly worthy of investigation.

That's just a vague example however, but the intelligence agencies do have very strong and wide ranging powers that you wouldn't even want to begin to believe. :yep:
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