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WHY PENCILS ? [Jun. 25th, 2016|05:55 pm]
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During the course of the EU Referendum, at the polling station I was supervising, many people asked for a biro or asked why pencils and not pens are provided.

I had no idea this subject was going the rounds of "social media" and was amazed when told that some people think MI6 get the ballot box, un-seal it, rub out the pencil cross, if in the wrong box, and put a cross in a different box. This is how the government fiddles election results.

What? How unbelievably stupid must anyone be to think that happens. If the government wanted to 'adjust" an election result, surely it would simply get an MI6 agent appointed as Returning Officer, concoct a number and get that read out at the appropriate time after the count.

I sealed my ballot box at 22:00hrs sharp. It took me 7 minutes to drive the the count building. How many MI6 agents would have to get into my car, unseal the ballot box, erase the crosses and mark new ones on 472 ballot papers, then re-seal the box with four seals with serial numbers identical to those they earlier removed, and replace the two tamper seals again with fresh ones with identical serial numbers to those earlier removed, and get out of my car before I was visible by people in the count building car park? Sealing of the ballot box is witnessed and party (or in this case "Leave" "Remain") agents can attach their own serial numbered seals. I estimate this might require 60 - 80 MI6 agents, obviously if the distance between polling station and count is greater, fewer agents woulds be required, if less, then more agents. My ballot box was numbered 102 (out of about 240 used that day in my polling area) . . . . seems to me that requires rather large numbers of MI6 agents nationwide, or perhaps, yes of course, they use MI5 and Special Branch too, silly me! .... and invisible people and nano-life forms with implanted biro's

If you are interested, the official line is that pencils are cheap, nobody would want to nick one, they are easily sharpened if blunt, still work after 4-5 years of non-use between General Elections. My station had 16 booths, it was not a large station; you can do the maths and price up the biro's yourself.

[User Picture]From: biascut
2016-06-25 05:05 pm (UTC)
I saw a few people asking why on earth people were demanding power be returned to a state they believed capable of faking a referendum result. Through a really ridiculous labour-intensive and easy-to-detect means, no less!
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[User Picture]From: bloodofareptile
2016-06-25 05:22 pm (UTC)
That... is a really good point.
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[User Picture]From: lerabollera
2016-06-25 05:07 pm (UTC)

I think that the ones who made the fuss are the ones who usually can't be arsed to vote.

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[User Picture]From: cadobhik39
2016-06-25 07:38 pm (UTC)
May well be the case.
I used to do the autumn canvass of people who did not return their registration form by post. We used to get paid £3 per form signed so I at least was benignly persistent. (we get £1.50 now!)
I remember one guy who told me he did not vote as this was how he protested. I pointed out to him that nobody will know about his protest if he is not on the electoral register. I could almost hear the cogs whirling in his brain then the spark of light "Oh! yeah! I never thought of that, thanks mate" ca-ching! £3
Others simply got bolshy about it and I realised for £3 it was not worth keeping on. Often weeks later in the office I'd get a phone call "I tried to change my phone contract/open a savings account/get a mortgage and was refused, I was told I was not on the election register, how do i get on it?"
I had of course tried that argument on the ground - major credit check companies legally have access to the full register and will check you live at the address your claim and by doing so check out your credit rating. All a bit Orwellian I guess, but I see nothing sinister in the system and it can obstruct attempts at identity theft. That said - I'd advise everyone to check the "edited register" box on the registration form - then your name address will not appear on the register people can view at your town hall.
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[User Picture]From: jeffthelion
2016-06-26 11:54 am (UTC)
Ditto everything on this comment. I did the Electoral Canvass once and it is hard work, I quit when they wanted me to collect people's NINO's off them, that would make it much harder, as people hate providing personal information about themselves.

The edited register was my 'way in' with some people, as they had to confirm their details to take them off the public list, MANY were completely unaware that you could buy their info.
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[User Picture]From: cadobhik39
2016-06-26 12:47 pm (UTC)
Yes I too stopped doing it when the need for "papers" was required - better a job for someone in uniform I think (I mean as an authority figure, not just a retired bloke in casual clothes with a mickey-mouse sort of badge)
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[User Picture]From: jeffthelion
2016-06-29 10:30 pm (UTC)
I'm sure that certain people will ask for a warrant or take it the same way, it wasn't well thought through anyway and they needed to provide better financial incentives, particularly if you were working the rough or student-filled areas of Manchester, as some of my workmates did.
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[User Picture]From: iddewes
2016-06-25 05:57 pm (UTC)
I had to use a black pen for the postal vote!
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[User Picture]From: cadobhik39
2016-06-25 07:19 pm (UTC)
Your postal vote is even more secure. The form you sign which accompanies your ballot paper is scanned in and the signature compared with the sig you put on your original application. If they are an acceptable match, you vote (still in its envelope) is put under lock and key for opening and counting after the polling stations have closed. Nothing is counted before that date/time.
I assume they request you use black pen because of the scanning process picking up the strong contrast.
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[User Picture]From: slashlover
2016-06-25 06:12 pm (UTC)
The first time I heard about the pen thing was during the Scottish Independence vote. Don't know where everyone has been but I've used a pencil in every election I've ever voted in - that's 20 years worth.

I also read that it was because pen can smudge/leak and unintentionally spoil the ballot paper.
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[User Picture]From: cadobhik39
2016-06-25 07:29 pm (UTC)
Smudging etc could be a problem, but at the count all sorts of odd marks are pulled out, put to one side. Some people put a tick, smiley face, circle etc etc. These papers are shown by electoral officers to the candidates and their agents at the count. They can agree of disagree that the paper, though lacking the requested cross, does show the voters intention. Generally these are accepted. I've seen papers at the count where all but one candidate has a cross. It can be assumed that the voter "crossed off" the ones he/she did not want and left his choice blank . . . but this sort of marking is open to interpretation -but it is the candidate/agents decision to reject/accept.
If more than one box is marked (and there are three or more candidates and only one box to be crossed, the intention might not be clear. From what I've seen of the process having worked on a casual contract for electoral services and as a Presiding Officer at Polling Stations, the system is quite fair and opportunities to cheat are minimal, and when detected the system adjusted to prevent future abuse. When introduced many spotted ways of abusing the postal vote system, but this now is almost impossible to cheat, at least in the volume required to swing an election.
Pencils have been the norm in all elections - a legal stationary company - Shaws - used to supply all the election equipment and papers work including legal notices. They started doing this in the 1700's - imagine all those quills and bottles of ink required, pencil much simpler.
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[User Picture]From: biascut
2016-06-25 10:13 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating, thank you!
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[User Picture]From: jeffthelion
2016-06-26 12:07 pm (UTC)
The Presiding Officer on my station told me about a guy who filled in the voting form at a General Election by writing "WANK" next to all but one candidate and "GOOD GUY" next to his chosen one! His vote was accepted.
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[User Picture]From: dalek_i_loveyou
2016-07-08 01:58 am (UTC)
I suppose this speaks to the level of distrust of the government.
Who can blame the people when the govt/secret services have carried out such terrible crimes in the past...
They are capable of anything.
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[User Picture]From: cadobhik39
2016-07-08 09:06 am (UTC)
When there was a big news story I'd often tune into Russia Today and check outlaw it was reported there. Subtly different to the BBC, I assume by each having spin doctors with different agendas.

One time I call a major trial was in progress. BBC reported the defendant was not in court. Russia Today repotted the defendant was not allowed in court.

We all live under an umbrella of propaganda and mistrust is rife. Hardly surprising - Birmingham Six, David Kelly, WMD, etc etc and these are the ones we know about or suspect as being very dodgy.

However, the practicalities of erasing and re-marking ballot papers makes that one a non-starter. Far easier to hand the Returning Officer a doctored result ("this is the result. read this out, by the way your children are cute aren't they, they asked after you when my college called at your home 15 mins ago").
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2016-11-02 01:11 pm (UTC)

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