This book contains a critical analysis of the law and politics governing the conduct of statutory elections in the United Kingdom.
The author argues that elections have now become a marketplace for 'buying' the most seemingly attractive political party on offer into power, rather than an expression of democratic self-government. Thematically arranged, he considers a number of issues dating from before the Civil War through nineteenth century reforms to the foundation of the Electoral Commission and up to their paper 'Securing the Vote' published in 2005. The book
Framing the debate for the Electoral Administration Bill 2005, it contains, amongst other legal analysis, analyses leading cases, including:
- Sanders v Chichester
- R v Jones
- R v Whicher; ex parte Mainwaring
- In re Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
The author presents an argument for a radical reappraisal of election law which involves, rather than excludes the self-governing citizenry, suggesting that election law, perhaps above all other kinds of law, should be the subject of vigorous and open public debate.
'Next week's general election may indeed be decided by the courts if the result is close, according to Mr Watt, author of UK Election Law: A Critical Examination (to be published in October by GlassHouse Press).' The Daily Telegraph, Thursday April 28, 2005 'The results of the forthcoming General Election could be tainted by fraud because of inadequacies in the postal voting system, a top academic has warned. Bob Watt, a senior lecturer in law at Essex University, said the potential for corruption, the procedures for postal voting could be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. Postal voting was opened up to anyone who wanted to use it in 2000, with the Representation of the People Act. Before that, it had only been possible for an elector to cast a vote if an individual case was made for a specific reason such as a debilitating illness. The number of applications for postal votes has soared from 2% of the electorate in the last general election to an estimated 15% in the new poll. IN the Colchester constituency, around 8,500 applications have already been received, in Braintree around 11,000, in Tendring around 10,000 and in North Essex, around 5,500. But in the wake of the recent ruling on corrupt elections in Birmingham in which Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC described "levels of electoral fraud which would disgrace a banana republic" - Mr Watt said postal voting could lead to candidates wrongly being declared MPs. "First, there is a secrecy issue. If you are using postal voting, how can you know that people in their own homes are not sharing their votes around or that someone isn't helping them vote?" said Mr Watt, whose book UK Election Law: A Critical Examination is published later this year. Second, it is possible for a corrupt person to apply for a postal vote on your behalf. They cold apply for a number of postal votes, and , as in the Birmingham case, sit in a warehouse, fill tem in, and send them back. Then, if you turned up to a polling station to vote - or more likely, you didn't - your vote would have already been cast. Mr Watt said if there were no procedure to stop that happening - which Commissioner Mawrey in Birmingham had observed - the system constituted a breach of Article Three of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights, whereby the whereby the Government is obliged to guarantee a method of free and fair voting . Earlier this week, a Labour party agent and a returning officer told the EADT they believed the system was secure and that every efforts were being made to check the authenticity of votes.' East Anglian Daily Times, Friday April 22, 2005