UK Liberty

Voting report

Posted in database state, ID Cards, voting by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

The BBC (see also Register and the Telegraph):

Ministers are considering introducing individual registration for voters – as a report claims elections in the UK are vulnerable to large-scale fraud.

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice says tighter controls, including photo IDs, are being looked at.

Of course! Anything can be solved by a database.

Currently only heads of households have to register.

It comes as the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust suggests elections in the UK fall short of international standards.

The report comes ahead of Thursday’s local elections in England and Wales.

It said measures to improve choice for voters – such as postal and electronic voting – are actually risking the integrity of the electoral process.

There have been at least 42 convictions for electoral fraud in the UK in the last seven years.

In 2004, a judge quashed the results of two local council elections in Birmingham after deciding there had been systematic large-scale postal vote rigging.

The problem is partly because “previously robust” administration systems have now reached “breaking point”, says the report, called Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern.

It claims the benefits of postal and electronic voting have been exaggerated – particularly over claims of increased turnout and social inclusion.

The Trust wants all voters to show photo ID, and for campaign spending at constituency level to be capped.

It says the voting system is being undermined by political parties’ spending on marginal seats.

There is “substantial evidence to suggest that money can have a powerful impact on the outcome of general elections, particularly where targeted at marginal constituencies over sustained periods of time,” it said.

Report author Stuart Wilks-Heeg, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Liverpool, said: “It’s very concerning that ministers tend to focus on ‘quick fixes’ to solve declining turnout and ignore genuine concerns about how easy it can be to cheat the system.

Quite.

“The evidence continues to mount up and shows how we are desperately in need of an electoral system that robustly befits the 21st century, without belying our 19th century democratic roots.”

The Electoral Commission said it had repeatedly called for the electoral process to be made more secure.

“We continue to urge the government to replace the current system of household registration with individual voter registration,” it said.

“That would make the electoral register – the foundation of the electoral process – safer and more accurate.”

Why bother registering anyone? Why not implement a system that simply ensures uniqueness, using the wonderful magic of fingerprints?

The government says it has taken significant steps to protect the electoral process.

Ms Prentice, the minister in charge of electoral law, told the BBC: “We’re looking at individual registration. We have increased the number of people registers to vote by almost a million.”

Shadow justice secretary, Nick Herbert, says compulsory registration by every voter is the answer.

The Ministry of Justice says it is committed to ensuring people have confidence in the electoral system.

A spokesman said it had introduced measures to prevent abuse of the system, including new penalties and the tightening up of requirements for postal voting.

He said: “Election fraud is illegal, and police and electoral administrators work closely together to deal with any allegations.”

Consultation on the Delivery of the National Identity Scheme

Posted in ID Cards by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

[hat-tip: an anonymous NO2ID forum contributor]

The Home Office:

The purpose of this consultation is to help the Government to proceed with the implementation of National Identity Scheme, including the introduction of identity cards linked to a National Identity Register.

There are a number of specific consultation points that we have highlighted in the Delivery Plan, published on 6 March 2008.

Comments need not be limited just to these points and we invite any wider comments on our proposals for the implementation of the National Identity Scheme, you may use the final comment box of the questionnaire for your other points.

We will take full account of all comments received on these proposals. The consultation period ends 30 June 2008. Once we have taken stock of the comments received following this consultation, a summary of the responses received will be published. This will be within three months of the closing date for this consultation and will be made available on the Identity and Passport Service website www.ips.gov.uk The outcome of the consultation will help inform secondary legislation for the National Identity Scheme.

As specified above, all comments received may be published unless the person or organisation making them asks specifically that they should not be published.

Documents to download:

Download the online Consultation document (.rtf, 145 kb) this will allow you to complete the consultation online and email it to us.

#Download the Consultation document as a pdf, (119 kb) this will allow you to print and post the Consultation document.

#Download the National Identity Scheme Delivery Plan 2008 (pdf, 328 kb) this will allow you to view or print the National Identity Scheme 2008.

Update

My response.

Terror laws killing off British justice

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

Simon Jenkins in the Times:

Slowly, oh so slowly, Britain’s judges are rescuing Britain’s values from the depths to which Tony Blair and his home secretaries plunged them in the knee-jerk response to terrorism. The acts passed by Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Charles Clarke from 2000 onwards did not create a British Guantanamo Bay, but they did signal a shocking collapse in British justice. The present home secretary, Jacqui Smith, wants to further that collapse.

Last week the Court of Appeal handed down two trenchant verdicts in an attempt to inject common sense into nonsensical terror laws.

Every prediction that Britain’s burgeoning terrorism laws would pollute justice is vindicated by these cases. The concept of preemptive imprisonment, like that of preemptive war, should have no place in an open society.

The authorities now have extraordinary powers to arrest and convict Britons on evidence that may be tainted by American interrogation techniques or by the sheer ignorance of the police and security services.

It is to this secret establishment that Smith wants to give discretionary power to incarcerate suspects without charge for an undecided number of months. It is this establishment that is still determined not to reveal the extent of its wiretap activities in court. It is this that has equipped Britain with the most extensive network of surveillance in the free world. It is this that intends to computerise the personal, occupational, medical and family records of the entire nation, on bases that everyone knows will be insecure.

The customary response is that this drift towards authoritarianism, coupled with an extension of state discretion, is necessary in the so-called “post 9/11 world”. I do not buy this. The threat from fascism and communism in the 20th century was real. It was war, hot and cold. These ideologies could have defeated Britain militarily and the threat justified nuclear defence and some curb on civil liberty.

No serious person can imagine a Britain conquered and ruled by fundamentalist Islam. It is pure fiction. Any fanatic can set off bombs, as once could the Irish. The cult of the suicide bomber enhances the menace of explosive devices and that requires more assiduous policing. But such few bombs as get through are the price we pay for a free society. Democracy is never a free lunch.

The claim of ministers that militant Islamism constitutes “a threat to British values”, let alone to western civilisation, is defeatist nonsense. The threat to British values at present comes not from militant Islam but from a hysterical public reaction to it. Elevating a criminal act into a military and political threat is stupid because counter-productive.

Answering “extremist intoxication” with extremist repression pours petrol on the flames. The rash of antiterror legislation over the past seven years has been a panic measure that has led to injustice and fury on the part of far too many of its victims and their communities. It has been bad law.

I have no problem in getting tough with terrorist conspirators or blatant trouble-makers, as in refusing entry to undesirable foreign mullahs. I have no problem in kicking out those who abuse Britain’s ever-generous hospitality. Nor am I too worried about their fate in being returned to their country of origin.

But none of this justifies collapsing the values of justice and fairness on which British law has long been based. The paradox, espoused by the present government and mostly unchallenged by the opposition, that defending values requires infringing them, is unjustified [“We had to burn the village to save it”]. That habeas corpus must be restricted, that mens rea must be suspended, that reading and talking and thinking can be crimes, all are ideas so abhorrent to British people that one might imagine them the product of an Al-Qaeda plot inside the Home Office.

This week the only conclusion I can reach is one I would never have predicted. Thank goodness for judges with the guts to save British values from the present crop of British politicians.

And great comment from a reader:

The big lie from Blair was that terrorism would not be allowed to change the British way of life.

The judges’ job to hold Ministers to account

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

The Times:

Yesterday’s court rulings highlight the delicate relationship between the executive and the judiciary — one in which judges increasingly hold ministers to account, and find them wanting. The two cases are not isolated. In recent weeks, ministers have suffered a series of judicial hammer blows — from deporting terrorist suspects to powers to block the release of offenders on parole. So are our judges getting restive?