Has postal voting made contracting out inevitable?
Anybody who has an interest in the way elections are managed and operated should check out the website of Opt2Vote – a firm based in Londonderry in Northern Ireland which seems to have built up a thriving business on the back of Labour’s changes in the election system since 1997 – particularly with the big extension in postal voting.
The scale of the firm’s role in UK elections is reflected in its marketing blurb. It says it’s dealt with “over 10 million Postal Ballots in last 3 years” and has provided “election Services to over 100 local authorities“.
One of those was Fife where the firm handled the postal voting for last November’s Glenrothes by election. This is how it describes its role:-
“The Parliamentary By-Election for the Glenrothes Constituency for Fife Council was one of the most hotly contested and publicised by-elections in recent years with an 80% turnout of postal voters. It was delivered by OPT2VOTEâ€™s team of election management specialists on 6th November and was the first election in Fife since the introduction of Personal Identifiers (PIs).
OPT2VOTE successfully delivered its Postal Vote Management Solution which works with all EMS systems and included the provision of a postal vote management team (including the staff to process returned postal votes) and all equipment. OPT2VOTE also provided a full print service delivering poll cards, ballot papers and postal packs.”
I have no doubt that we can have 100% confidence in the firm’s professionalism and integrity and it should be stated that the big issue at Glenrothes – the loss of the marked register – had nothing to do with the firm.
The real problem is that the much-criticised postal voting regulations have put so much pressure on returning officers that they have to look to outside solutions to ensure that this aspect works properly.
But I am sure that I am not the only one who feels very uneasy that so much of the process of running elections is being contracted out to private firms.