Vote Early . . . Vote Often

27 March 2011

A number of you have commented on Mike’s comment about the rather strange polling procedure.

As Sue said, because voting is compulsory here, they have to make it very easy for us.  And that means you can vote anywhere – not just in your own electorate.  And within your own electorate, you can vote at any polling booth.  So there’s absolutely nothing to stop me going into more than one booth and voting more than once.

I asked at the polling station whether they compare electoral rolls at all the booths to check for double voting.  I was told they did but frankly I can’t see the point.  If I were found to have double-voted, I’d just deny it.  “I can’t help it if someone has used my name somewhere else.”  And then what do they do – ask you which way you voted and deduct one from the final count?

In the UK, you CAN double vote but only at the same station, as we are all allotted the station to go to. Everyone gets a card sent to their home address with their electoral roll number and the place where they have to vote but you don’t have to have that with you when you vote.  This causes its own problems as you may have moved since the electoral roll was published and your old house gets your card.  Someone just pops along and shows your card and gets your vote. It’s happened to a few people I know that they’ve gone to vote and found their name has already been crossed off.  They then prove who they are and are given a different coloured voting paper.  What happens after that I’m not sure about but I know there’s an investigation.

I don’t find election nights as exciting here as in the UK as in Australia ballot boxes are counted at the polling stations and the results announced for each polling station – so we get the announcements in dribs and drabs.  In the UK, all ballot boxes for a particular electorate are taken to a local place (like the Town Hall) and opened all together. The postal voting papers are then added to the piles.  Not until ALL voting papers have been counted are the results announced (you may have seen it on television where all the candidates stand on the stage around the Returning Officer who announces the results).  This may not be until 3 in the morning so we stay up all night if it’s a particularly exciting election.  It means also that all candidates return to their electorate for the results and we see the faces of the elated and the dejected – and the tears sometimes.   From my experience of having stood, I do know that the candidates know the results before the Returning Officer announces them – because they may wish to ask for a re-count, for instance.

I know one thing that intrigues foreigners in England is that we vote on Thursdays.  I think this stems back to Thursday being the most popular market day so everyone would be coming into town to buy and sell. And because it’s a Thursday and people are working (maybe out of their electorates), the polling stations open from 7am – 10pm for a General Election (8am-9pm for a local one, for some reason). 

Don’t say you don’t get an education at Pompom!


  1. Interestingly they solved the problem in an African way when i voted in the first democratic election in South Africa. When they gave you the ballot papers, you had to dip your thumb into a pot of florescent ink – then when you voted, the put your thumb under ultra-violet light, and if you glowed, you couldn’t vote. This was on top of all the paperwork, but worked pretty well to ensure “one man, one vote”.

  2. I agree there should be some checks so people don’t vote twice, but the idea of being able to vote near your work is great. Since all of this is computerized, all you would need to do is show proper ID and then could vote. Your ID would be noted so you could not go somewhere else and vote.

  3. A few elections back, I was fortunate enough to spot that the person checking me off on the printout had accidentally drawn the line through someone else’s box instead of mine, in spite of having read out my details to me just moments before. I dread to think about the fines that would have been issued and the problems that could have been caused if I hadn’t spotted the mistake.

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