1,509,500 ballot papers sent out (source: Electoral Reform Services)If you are one of the many members who did not receive a ballot paper, despite hassling both the union and ERS, you will not find those figures amusing.
1,449,669 members for whom the union has addresses (source: Union's latest Annual Return)
1,314,821 paying members (source: Union's latest Annual Return)
150,000 likely voters (based on a typical 10% turnout)
We append below the text of a complaint to Electoral Reform Services submitted on 24th September 2010.
Dear Mr Hearn,
Unite General Secretary election. In confidence.
You may recall that I visited Electoral Reform Services with a candidate on 20th Nov 2008, to inspect the votes you counted for the Unite Executive election of that year.
On that visit we raised our concern that the members' address list, used to send out ballot papers, may contain large numbers of members at the same address and that you did not check this, or keep records of it. You were unable to identify any ballot papers sent out in that way or to provide us with any anonymised data on how many ballot papers went to how many multiple addresses. We had some further correspondence with you and in an email entitled "Unite/T&G Election 2008" dated 27 Nov 2008 you wrote to us:
"A check on whether multiple ballot papers are going to the same address is not carried out."
It seems to us that this an obvious way for a union to rig a ballot since the union supply the address list. ERS would not notice it and would endorse any ballot rigged in this way. Furthermore any candidate checking the votes cast would not be able to detect this. This appears to us to be a serious flaw in your counting and verification arrangements. It may also be a breach of section 51(a) of the Trade Union and Labour relations Act 1992:
"51 Voting(5) The ballot shall be conducted so as to secure that—(a) so far as is reasonably practicable, those voting do so in secret, ..."
If only because if 1,000 ballot papers went to the same address that cannot be taking all reasonable and practical steps to keep the voting secret.
Please would you assure us that this flaw has been or will be rectified before the General Secretary election ballot commences, outline to us how you have rectified it and assure us that any candidate will be able to inspect this aspect of the ballot afterwards.
Lastly I ask that you keep this email confidential and not disclose its existence or contents to the union or to those three candidates who are employees of the union, or their representatives, or to disclose to the union that you are implementing a check or changing your procedures regarding this issue.
We would regard disclosure on your part as partial and consider it might facilitate fraud by forewarning employees of the union thus allowing the possibility of them devising alternative methods. You should be aware that two of the candidates who are union employees have been arrested in the past, one as part of a police inquiry into ballot rigging (paragraph 36) and one by the Fraud Squad (paragraph 8 (internal notes of the union’s legal director)) . I willingly add that although the last one remained under investigation for 2 years neither were charged.
Read about the 2008 election, the TGWU's very careful voters and their incredibly low spoilt ballot rates here.