Many happy Returning Officers

All seven voters in the 2012 Sussex PCC election
All seven voters in the 2012 Sussex PCC election

The last set of elections before The Election have been and gone and, according to my calculations, I had the opportunity to vote six times for the European Parliament.

Once in Kingston, once in Brighton, and a few more times in Brighton using the polling cards delivered to previous generations of students who once lived in my house, one of whom – a “Mr Nice” – also regularly receives increasingly threatening tax demands from HM Revenue & Customs.

Of course, I didn’t vote six times, even though I could have got away with it. I didn’t even vote twice. I only voted once.

But as a thought experiment, I looked into w hat could happen if I tried to impersonate Mr Nice and cast more votes for the BNP than my fair share. (Is this right? -Ed.)

Well, those of you reading this who are good citizens will be pleased to hear that local Returning Officers do have an armoury of cunning tools at their disposal, to weed out and frustrate those bent on corruption.

The law give suspicious polling station staff the power to tax would-be fraudsters a series of cunning questions. The wording of the first prescribed question is:


If the voter manages to answer this devious question satisfactorily (“Yes”), perhaps because they are both intent on electoral fraud and in possession of a brain, the wily Returning Officer has a second weapon up his/her/its sleve:


…and that’s it. Any voter who manages to get the right answers in this two-question pop quiz must be issued with a ballot paper and must be allowed to vote.

(Technically there’s also a power for poll clerks to ask for the voter’s date of birth, but this crafty ‘One Last Thing’ killer gambit is only legal in Northern Ireland. Citizens in other parts of the United Kingdom are not expected to know the date of birth of the person they are claiming to be.)

But not to worry, because these questions aren’t the only way of deterring naughty people. Oh no. Every ballot paper is also printed with an ‘official mark’, and those ballot papers without this intricate, banknote-style design will be rejected. So that means nobody could produce their own counterfeit ballot papers, right?

Well, here is the un-forgeable ‘official mark’ on the ballot paper I received in the post (it’s the little diamond on the right):

IMG_1270 copy…and here is the unofficial mark I created in Photoshop in 13 minutes and 48 seconds:


Obviously there are some minor differences with spacing etc., but that’s because I set myself a time challenge. If I’d put in more effort (or had the guile to, erm, scan the original) it would be perfect.

But at least the presence of an official mark deters brainless fraudsters, and to be fair they are the worst type.

So anyway, I just thought I ought to reassure all the honest voters out there that our democracy is very much proof against manipulation by the unscrupulous.

It’s a talent, it’s a gift

Barack Obama: he aims to serve
Barack Obama: he aims to serve

The US Government has published its annual disclosure of which high-ranking politicians and staffers received freebies – and it goes into considerably more detail than the equivalent Sussex University document.

Gifts received by President Obama included “one candle, six steak knives, four Christmas mugs” (and a partridge in a pear tree etc.) from the Sultan of Brunei, who also gave the First Family “three faux books”. Hopefully they have a faux bookcase on which to display them… and if so, perhaps it could also store the “high quality book” received from the President of Colombia.

Seriously, what is a ‘high quality book’? One that’s won the Smarties Prize?

David Cameron also stuck to the ‘household goods’ theme with his pressie of a “custom Dunlop table tennis table, inscription and paddles”. A note adds that this gift was only accepted because “non-acceptance would cause offence to donor”: he’s a sensitive man, that David Cameron.

Hillary Clinton: never knowingly underdomesticated
Hillary Clinton: never knowingly underdomesticated

There seems to be a certain amount of stereotyping in foreign leaders’ selection of gifts. While Obama received ornamental daggers, basketballs and bottles of liquor, Hillary received a more feminine range of products including a “porcelain tea set” from a visiting Russian minister, teacups from the President of Azerbijan and a vase from the South African Minister for International Relations.

Fortunately the President of Benin bucked the trend of sexist gift choices, giving Ms Clinton the following:

Pink tablecloth with blue and yellow design. Blue tableclothwith white design. Yellow and black tablecloth with pink design. Woven blue and white blanket with orange, yellow, and blue design. White woven tableclothwith beige embroidery. Beige tablecloth with white design. Burgundy tablecloth with white fish design. Red tablecloth with black and white design. Two mint green fabric table runners. Large olive green tablecloth with white design. Set of green napkins and tablecloth with tribal design. Set of white napkins and tablecloth with tribal designs. Orange woven tablecloth with blue design. Orange woven tablecloth with white design. Purple and orange woven tablecloth with orange design.

I’m rather disappointed that nobody bought her a bottle of shower cleaner. I’ll recommend it to Nigel Farage next time I see him.
jc hitler headlines

The Royal Ballot, part 2

ballot+paper[1]I attended the European election count at Hove Town Hall on Sunday, where Returning Officer Penny Thompson CBE was busy adjudicating on hundreds of doubtful ballot papers. I was there as an independent observer accredited by the Electoral Commission, but a UKIP agent asked me, “Are you one of these Green types then?” (And I wasn’t even wearing a hoodie!)

Many papers were not really that doubtful, such as the 50+ people who tried to vote for more than one party, although many required more careful scrutiny…

  • One voter wrote ‘IDESPISETHEMALL’, one letter in each box.
  • One less creative voter wrote ‘PENISPENISPENIS’, one letter in each box.
  • Several voters ticked every box as a protest. Returning Officer: “No clear intent there.”
  • Several hundred voters made no mark on their ballot papers at all. Returning Officer: “No intent and no energy.”
  • Returning Officer: “The None of the Aboves are doing quite well!”
  • Someone just drew a huge smiley face on theirs. Returning Officer: “Application for art school.”
  • One person X-ed ‘Conservatives’, then scribbled it out and switched to the Socialist Party of Great Britain. (Quite some change of heart.) Tory observer: “OK, we’ll let that one go.” Returning Officer, scandalised: “‘Let it go’?!”
  • “I refuse to vote for any of them because they’re all w*nkers,” stated one voter, who also troubled to label UKIP, the BNP and ‘An Independence from Europe’ (a party clearly trying to seek an ungrammatical alphabetic advantage over UKIP) as “cu*ts”.
  • “Europeans are people,” remarked one voter. Can’t argue with that.
  • Ballot paper defaced with a giant anarchist ‘A’. Returning Officer: “There’s intent here but it’s not for anything on the ballot paper.”
  • One person ticked Labour and labelled UKIP ‘Nazis’. Returning Officer: “Allow for Labour despite the small essay.” UKIP agent: “We don’t want them anyway.”
  • One person ticked Green and scrawled several lines of text beginning ‘I’d rather…’ next to UKIP. Returning Officer: “Allow for Greens.” UKIP agent: “What would they rather do?” Returning Officer, drily: “Stab themselves in the eye with a rusty spoon.”

Democracy, eh, you can’t beat it.

UK Independence Day

Following the “earthquake” of UKIP’s success in the recent local elections, where the fledgling party increased the number of councils it controls from 0 to 0, Gabrielquotes takes a look at their local government policies.


Five of the best

Are you the person duly listed in the credits of this blog post? Yes? OK, fine, no further questions m’lud.
In tonight’s episode, the entire blog post was written by Sir Andrew Motion. It won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011 and the Smarties Award 2013. (Is this right? -Ed.) (They answered the question satisfactorily. -G.) This was an Gabrielquotes production!


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