Because of my former involvement in party politics I have attended a number of election counts, for all levels of election Community, County, Assembly, Westminster and Euro, but until last week I have never attended a preliminary postal vote count.
Of the 300 odd votes cast in the Glan Conwy Community Council election 68 were postal votes. Postal votes are accompanied by a signed declaration by the voter which "proves" that the votes had been validly cast. The declarations are scanned by a computer and the computer highlights those that don't "match" the details on the postal vote application.
The computer rejected a dozen or so votes (a fairly high percentage – about 1 in 5,). My opponent, the returning officer and I then had to visually verify the rejected statements. Most were caused by a failure of the scanning apparatus to distinguish between 9s 6s and 0 in the date of birth section of the declaration, all overturned. Some were cases where a voter had given a sample signature as John Jones but signed the declaration as J Jones, but because the Jones was undoubtedly visually the same, all three of us accepted the signatures as genuine.
Two postal votes were rejected, I thought that both were genuine but the returning officer and the other candidate disagreed with me. One was from a very old voter, I thought that the signature showed deterioration in handwriting fluidity due to age, the others thought that it was another person's signature; the second was from a female voter who was recently married. She had given her sample signature in her maiden name when she applied for a postal vote, but signed in her married name whilst casting this vote.
OK – it was only one vote and it didn't affect the outcome of the election, so in a sense it didn't matter, but it was still a case of a woman being disenfranchised for being a woman and it formed 1/300th of the vote, in some close call constituencies during the last Westminster election one in three hundred votes might have been decisive.
As a bloke I can get divorced tomorrow* and re-marry on Saturday and use the same signature on my postal vote, but my ex-wife reverting to her maiden name and my new wife adopting my name by marriage will both have their votes discounted! That's not fair – is it?
* Note to Mrs MOF - point used as an example not as an intention – honest!