First-Past-The-Post, AV and Fraud

In the current debate on which voting system we should adopt, nobody seems concerned about how resilient each system is to fraud.

I hope to show here (with examples) that one of the major issues with the current system (FPTP) is that it is wide open to Gerrymandering, Vote Stuffing and other forms of election fraud.

Proportional vote systems of just about any variety are much less sensitive to ballot rigging. This includes AV.

In recent times there has been major ballot rigging by both the Conservatives and Labour, you can guarantee that for every fraud that is discovered there are another ten that go unnoticed.

All of the all the fraud schemes are based around manipulating small numbers of votes or voters. These frauds will only work effectively if you have a flawed voting system like FPTP.

Example 1
Gerrymandering (or Manipulation of Demography.)
(Used By Conservatives, Westminster Council 1990)

The conservative council moved council tenants out of marginal wards into wards already strongly Labour, thus nullifying the vote of those moved. The council then sold the properties to owner occupiers, who, they assumed were more likely to vote Conservative. In this way they gamed the system so they made a small reduction to the Labour support base and at the same time made a potential small increase to the support base for the Conservatives. The fraud then relied on the fact that much of the vote went to other parties and was essentially wasted. A manipulated but tiny change in voter demography in these marginal seats gave the Conservatives a massive electorial advantage.

The net result of this scam was that the Conservative won the marginals. Labour increased their share of the vote in their strongly Labour wards but lost the marginal seats.

This scam is only effective with FPTP. With AV the second choice votes would come into effect and and it is highly unlikely that Westminster council could have changed the demographics anywhere near enough to game AV.

The Conservative Westminster Council only got caught because they were so blatent about it (politicians conceit again) I suspect that this methodolgy has been used on numerous occasions by both major parties, but with a little less arrogance and a little more concealment.

The leader of Westminster Council (Dame Shirtly Porter) was fined £37 million and stripped of here title.

Details of this scam are   HERE (Independent) and HERE (Wikipedia)

Example 2.
Vote Stuffing 
(Used by the Labour Party 2010 general election - unproven but highly likely)

Vote stuffing has a number guises. The most common is fraudulent postal voting. It works by the fraudster(s) registering fictitious residents into a marginal seat or ward. Each of these fictitious residents gets a postal vote. Because the votes for third parties are essentially wasted, these few fraudulent votes can swing the balance of the vote. According to Lady Warsi, The Conservatives lost three seats in the 2010 election due to postal vote stuffing.

Again this is only an effective scam under FPTP where the winner can win with a small percentage of the vote. With AV the second choice votes would mean that any candidate would need 50% of the reallocated vote to win. To stuff the vote to the extent as to counteract the transferred votes as well  would be untenable.

Lady Warsi's allegation is Here (Telegraph)

Articles on occurences of Postal vote fraud can be found HERE , HEREHERE and HERE

Example 3  
Granny Farming
(Used by Conservatives, Bedford Borough Council 2005)

With Granny farming, older vulnerable residents, who under normal circumstances would not vote, are persuaded to give their vote to a proxy. This proxy themn uses the vote to their advantage. This is a variant of Vote Stuffing and there have since 2005 been put in place some controls (i.e. a proxy can only act for one other person not many as was the case).
Like other forms of vote stuffing this scam is only effective under FPTP. In AV due to the need for the winner to secure 50% of the vote, manipulating a few votes is far less likely to affect the outcome.

Article on Granny Farming can be found HERE

Example 4.
(Used by the Labour Party, Glasgow North By-Election 2009)

When a party has a secure seat it is only vulnerable to voter apathy (i.e. people failing to turn up to vote) Personation is where the fraudster turns up and pretends to be someone else and uses the other persons vote, assuming that that person will not show. This is a desperate and dangerous version of vote stuffing and like all forms of vote stuffing is only effective under FPTP.

Article on Personation at the Glasgow North By election is HERE

I could go on and on.

Unfortunately election fraud is no longer a freak event in our country. One of the main reasons for this rise in fraud is simply because the FPTP voting system is so fragile and open to criminal manipulation.

It is considerably more difficult to game any form of proportional representation system simply because with AV you cannot win with a small share of the vote, you have to get 50% from direct votes or transfers.

That reason alone should mean we choose AV.

But FPTP also can foul up on a grand scale even without fraud. If you've not read them, have a look at my posts on the elections of 1929, 1951,  1974. Particularly look at 1951 where the Conservative Party that formed the government with an absolute majority, actually got a smaller  share of the national vote than Labour party.

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