Last week and in anticipation of the forthcoming Mayoral elections in London on the 3rd of May, the Evening Standard exposed potential electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets. Although not overtly, the piece is a slur on the Bangladeshi voter.
However, the high levels of voter turnout amongst the Bangladeshi community, both here in the UK and back in the ancestral home establish them as keen voters, anxious to exercise their democratic right. Unlike many western electorates, voter apathy is not a problem amongst this group of voters. Furthermore, if we look to Bangladesh, the potential for voter fraud is also much less. For example, at the last general election in Bangladesh in 2008, we saw the use of an electronic photo ID electoral register, like the one shown above. This shows the voter’s name, address and most importantly a photograph of them. By all accounts, that election was viewed as fair and well run by all observers including many from abroad. Given voters can be identified with their photo in Bangladesh, you’d think this was something that would be taken up here as well. So let’s see the Electoral Commission introduce something similar in the UK with an electronic photo ID electoral register.
While we’re at it, why not also consider starting the count at the polling station. Instead of waiting for the polls to shut and then have the customary race to count, another improvement to the system would be to allow counting to start there at the polling stations. Most people, probably including candidates themselves, lose the will to stay up until the very small hours to hear the election results in local, general & regional elections. The late declarations also detract from the momentum of the result as people start a new day before discovering the outcome of their vote. Again this is something which is practiced in other parts of the world and could well be an improvement to our system here. Perhaps then, we have more to learn about voting amongst the Bangladeshi community then it’s being suggested. And the mother of democracies should get use to the idea of learning a few things from other parts of the world.