Was turnout distorted by postals and the register tidy-up

Was turnout distorted by postals and the register tidy-up

    Our 11/4 tip was right but were our reasons wrong?

What turned out to be one of our most profitable tips at the election was to go for turnout at 60% or more when the price was 11/4.

We argued in February that the Iraq war had politicised more groups and the fact that it would appear to be a much tighter race would drive more people to the polls than the 59% of four years ago. Although the 61% turnout on Thursday vindicated our tip our reasons were probably exaggerated.

For could it have been that the reason turnout went up by 2% was actually caused by the huge effort by the parties to exploit the postal voting regulations and the tidy up of the electoral register that had taken place in the year or so before polling day. The latter saw big declines in the numbers on the register in some places and overall was estimated to have reduced those able to vote by about 1.5%.

    So what took the figure over what for us was the “magic” 60% line had little to do with political factors.

If this is right then what would the turnout figures have been if the pre-2000 postal voting rules had been in force and there had not been the determined effort on the electoral register?

With Today’s John Humphrys being one of those who had his “vote stolen” there is little doubt that the postal voting issue will continue to be a major issue. You certainly would not bet on the existing rules being in force at the next General Election.

Mike Smithson

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