Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Counting the Votes


Back in the late 1990's my then regular watering hole was closed for a full refurbishment, which was received with much dismay by the regulars as pub refurbishments always meant a complete revamp and the ruination of a favourite place to meet friends over a pint or two.

During this period all the regulars set up home in the bar of a local hotel nearby, which was not much of a place and did not serve a decent pint of beer. For the short time I suffered the place just to see friends, we got to know a long time hotel resident who was a chap named Mike who hailed from the USA. He had been sent by the company he worked for to the UK to work here for almost a year. He became a good friend over that period and we still keep in touch by e-mail, he also came to see us all when he returned to the UK for a holiday.

During one of the evenings when having a beer with Mike I asked him how the American voting system worked. Despite being involved in UK politics and knowing how to complete a set of nominating forms for general and local elections, as well as our election procedures, the American system had always been a mystery to me and seemed about as complicated as Einstein's theory of relativity. Despite Mike patiently explaining such things as 'Primaries' and all the other razzamatazz that go with electing a President, I was still left baffled.

Since the 2020 Presidential election it is not only me left baffled, it looks like most of the world is too with claims of fraud and vote rigging, as well as the subsequent riots and storming of the Congress building. This raises the question, how can a there not be a simple majority for one candidate over the other? How can the voting system be so complicated it can be open to debate and conflict as to who has won and who has lost? This situation also occurred when Donald Trump won the election in 2016 and the Democrat's questioned the validity of the then vote, as Trump has also done since the 2020 Presidential election.

At the heart of the dispute lies the Dominion voting machines which were used and leaving people to ask, could they be tampered with to give a bias in favour of one candidate over the other? If a nation cannot have free, fair and open elections it ceases to be a democracy when the people have little or no faith in their voting system.

Over the years when growing up I have been glued to the TV on election nights watching the various counts in Town Halls around the country, I loved Robert McKenzie's swingometer which uncannily gave extremely accurate predictions of who would win an election. Then, when in 1997 I attended my very first count in Walsall Town Hall as the Referendum Party candidate for Walsall North, I was impressed by the efficiency of our voting and counting system and the way the Returning Officer conducted the count.

The beauty of our way of voting is down to the fact it is visible at every stage. During that 1997 general election a voter would go to their local polling station where their name was checked and then crossed through on the copy of the electoral register issued for everyone entitled to vote in that polling station, this meant that person could only vote once. When the polls closed at 10.00 pm the ballot boxes were taken to the Town Hall where they were logged in, registered and the seal's checked to ensure they had not been tampered with.

Once the boxes were opened the number of ballot papers the boxes contained were counted to ensure they tallied with the number of voters who had cast their votes. Sometimes they would not tally as people do some peculiar things, such as walking out of the polling station with their ballot paper and, despite registering to vote, not casting it. During my first election the Returning Officer explained that during one election they found a ballot paper from Shropshire in one of the Walsall ballot boxes. It can only presumed the person this ballot paper belonged to was in a rush, collected the ballot paper in his/her local polling station then later in the day completed it and popped it into a ballot box in the first polling station that person encountered, not realising this invalidated their vote.

When the returning officer was happy everything tallied the ballot papers they were then counted into bundles of 50 per bundle and had elastic bands put around them. The bundles were then put into baskets with the appropriate candidate name, this way the candidates and their polling agents were able to see how the bundles of votes stacked up and who was getting the largest share of the votes cast. The only times an election count is queried is either when the vote is very close or when a candidate is within a whisker of the 5% they need to save their general election £500 deposit. Again this process is observed by all and at the end a victor announced. As the whole process is fully observed with physical ballot papers there can be nothing left to dispute.

That was how it was during the first election count I attended which, ironically, was the terrible night when Tony Blair was elected into office with a massive majority. He then opened up and relaxed the rules on postal voting which has undermined, to some degree, the British voting system and has been responsible for acts of voter fraud ever since. However, we still, thank heavens, have an open and easily viewed and correlated voting system, unlike the now very suspect computerised USA voting.

If the USA, which lays claim to be the worlds most democratic nation, wants to retain that claim and have elections people can trust, it needs to abandon voting machines. Also, as we should here in the UK too, postal voting should be restricted to only those who have a valid reason for not being able to visit their polling station with paper ballot voting only ever to be used. Then it will be harder for elections to be disputed. Our UK system is so efficient it means we can have a vote on a Thursday and usually a new PM or administration in office on the day after.

Finally, in an e-mail reply I received from Mike, my American friend, he wrote a few days after the election:

"And all this time, I thought we had a functioning constitutional republic. It has been very difficult to come to grips with the fact that the election fraud has disenfranchised the majority of American voters. The vote fraud is unbelievable. And will take a whole lot of time to sort out. I do not think that team Trump fully understood what was going to hit them. When the Michigan secretary of state sent us unsolicited requests for absentee ballots in late March, there were two letters for people not living at our address. Suggesting to me that the rot is too deep to recover from, and we are in the end game stage." 

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Tel: 020 7287 4414
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Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
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