Ballot box security: adding your own seals

Although it’s normal for candidates to leave the security of ballot boxes firmly in the hands of elections staff, there is in fact a long-standing legal right dating back to the 1872 Ballot Act for candidates to put their own seals on ballot boxes.

It is a right that is only rarely used, such as in the 1999 European elections in Haringey. The Conservatives decided to put their own seals on ballot boxes, motivated in part by the usual European rules requiring a 3 day delay between polling day (Thursday) and the count (Sunday). On that occasion the seals caused more concerns than they banished as the seals were damaged during the moving of boxes back and forth, resulting in some more excitable concerns that there might have been tampering.

The right to seal ballot boxes is back in the news with the BBC reporting:

The British National Party is so concerned about fraud at the general election that it intends to place its own seals on ballot boxes.

The party fears its opponents will seek to sabotage its aim of winning a seat in Parliament for the first time.

Regardless of any actual fear, by making this move the BNP both scored some media coverage and helped present itself as a party at odds with the rest of the world.

Somewhat curious was the Labour Party’s response to the story. At first glance this quote seems unremarkable:

A Labour spokesman said: “We are confident that when the general election comes the British people will clearly reject the disgusting politics of the BNP.

“That will be because their politics are vile and divisive not because of any bizarre paranoia about ballot boxes.”

However, this dismissal of concerns over ballot box tampering as “bizarre paranoia” came only a few days after Labour’s Chief Whip expressed concern that ballot boxes might be tampered with in his own constituency. As in the case of the BNP though, Nick Brown did not present any evidence to back up his comments.

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