Shortly before the referendum, Charles Moore emailed me with an idea: he’d always thought how worryingly easy it would be for someone like him, registered in two addresses, to vote twice. So he proposed to do so, and then write it up in the magazine – to flag up weaknesses in our system. As he writes in this week’s magazine:
In Sussex, I went to the polling station early. I took my polling card, which is not compulsory, and asked the clerk what the significance of the barcode on it was. He had no idea, so presumably it has no security function (or the clerks are poorly trained). I voted to leave the European Union. Then I caught a train to London, where I went to my local polling station. There I presented my London polling card, unchallenged. I went into the booth and wrote on the ballot paper ‘I am spoiling my ballot because I have voted already. This second vote is my protest at how lax the voting rules are.’
The Electoral Commission should have thanked him for drawing attention to a glaring flaw in our democratic system. Instead, it says it has reported Charles to the Metropolitan Police. Why? He clearly acted in the public interest, and didn’t actually vote twice. He voted once, and then spoiled a ballot – so what he did made no difference to the result.
As Charles says, there are many occasions where journalists need to test the law to expose laxity: to try to smuggle a facsimile weapon through security, for example. And rather than keep it a secret, he wrote it all up in The Spectator. Motivated only by a desire to try to accelerate reform, and clean up the system.
He has succeeded in his public interest objective, by drawing attention to the problem. The Electoral Commission has today admitted that there is no central database that lists the number of people registered to vote in two places – why not?
All told, I suspect the Metropolitan Police have more pressing issues to investigate.
Spectator subscribers are invited to join Charles Moore on Monday 10 October, at the Royal Institution. Do come along (if he hasn’t been nicked by then). Click here.
Non-Subscribers: life’s too short NOT to subscribe to The Spectator. For an introductory offer – 12 issues for £12 – click here.