Political parties “behind the curve” on postal voting

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Political parties 'behind the curve' about voting by post

Postal ballots could arrive in the coming days (Alamy)

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Postal votes will arrive in mailboxes across the country this week. However, according to an election expert, political parties are “behind the curve” when it comes to targeting people who will vote by post in this general election.

Households are expected to begin receiving mail-in ballots in the coming days ahead of the July 4 election. As many as one in five people will vote by post before the polls open in just over three weeks.

Jon Tonge, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, said PoliticsHome that the Westminster parties are still following the ‘traditional model’ of campaigning, focused on the finish of election day.

The public has until 5pm next Wednesday (June 19) to register for a postal vote. Tonge said that while the “large portion” of mail-in votes will be returned later in the campaign, “voting could technically start this week.”

Given the large number of votes up for grabs, Tonge believes that parties on all sides are “behind the curve, to be very honest,” in their approach.

According to Electoral Commission data, 21 percent of all valid votes in the 2019 general election were postal votes, compared to 21.7 percent in 2017 and 20.5 percent in 2015.

The rules around voting by mail changed in 2001, and before that the percentage of voting by mail was around 2 percent.

As Philip Cowley, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, recently wrote The HousePeople who vote by post in Britain tend to be older. According to recent research, people over 75 are more than 20 percentage points more likely to vote by mail than people between 18 and 24 years old.

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Tonge said it was “an extraordinary omission by the parties that one in five votes would be cast in advance by postal ballot”.

He told PoliticsHome: “Parties still like the traditional model where everyone rolls up at the polling station on the day itself. It is true that four in five do so, but that percentage is increasing.

“They still have this really traditional model where everything comes to a climax with an election eve, and that’s just so dated.”

The timing of the election in early July could increase the share of postal voters this time compared to 2019, given the likelihood that people are on summer vacation.

Tonge said the “dip” in the number of people who voted by post last time was due to the December timing, which meant “very few people were on holiday”.

According to a House of Commons library briefing in November: the seat with the highest percentage of registered postal voters in England was Blaydon in Tyne and Wear, where 43.6 percent voted by post. The seat was abolished by the boundary changes at this election, but similar numbers were seen in other neighboring constituencies in the North East.

In Houghton and Sunderland South, represented by Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson, 43.4 per cent of the electorate was registered for a postal vote, and in Newcastle upon Tyne North the figure was 42.9 per cent.

Many of the seats with a lower take-up of postal votes were in the West Midlands, with Birmingham, Ladywood bottom of the table, with 7.6 per cent registration of postal votes, followed by Birmingham Hodge Hill with 8.6 per cent and Birmingham , Perry Barr at 8.6 percent. 8.9 percent.

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