Are ballots secret?

One thing to be thankful for, in a democracy like ours, is that the secrecy of the ballot box is sacrosanct – no-one can ever know how I voted. Or can they?

It seems that, in order to prevent fraud, ballot papers are numbered. When you collect your ballot paper from the clerk in the polling station he or she writes the number of your ballot paper next to your name on the electoral register.

If someone wanted to know how each of us votes, all they have to do is to gain access to the ballot papers after they’ve been counted and before they are destroyed. In the meantime they are bagged up, in an apparently very casual manner, and shipped off to a warehouse in Hayes, Middlesex for storage.

The ballot slips are conveniently bundled together by candidate in the counting process so finding out who voted communist or Ukip or BNP is simple. But who would do such a thing?

According to Gordon Winter, a former agent of the South African security service BOSS in his 1981 book Inside BOSS, the South African government knew the identity of everyone who voted for the Communist Party of Great Britain – thanks to British intelligence using this simple vote-tracing procedure.

Given that a British schoolboy’s parents were recently visited by the police as their son had shown an interest in Ukip, and that the FBI are asking teachers to keep an eye open for signs of “UnAmerican activity” by their pupils, I’d say it was time to start worrying.

Of course, once voting is online, MI5 will no longer have to bother about sending a couple of lads over to Hayes to laboriously sift through thousands of black sacks full of ballot papers – GCHQ can do the job in a matter of seconds at only a tenth of the cost – thus saving the taxpayer money.


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