Monday, 22 May 2017

My Postal Vote on 8th June

I won't be at home when the General Election takes place on 8th June, so for the first time in my life I have applied for a Postal Vote. The first pack - for the election of two local councillors - came a couple of days ago, and I've now dealt with it. It will get posted later today. This post is about that experience.

Another pack - for the election of a Member of Parliament for the Arundel & South Downs constituency - is due shortly, and having had a warm-up on the councillors, I should be able to cast my Postal Vote for an MP with a more practiced hand.

But my goodness, what a rigmarole it is! What a palaver. What a kerfuffle. I won't be doing this again in a hurry. And certainly not make it my usual method of voting.

I had thought it would all be pretty straightforward. And in principle it is. You download a pdf of the Postal Voting Application Form from the District Council's website. You fill that in. This generates a Postal Voting Pack. The complication begins at that point.

The Pack contains two envelopes - A and B - and a big form which you have to tear into two separate parts, both of which need to be written on or marked in the right way, in exact accordance with instructions on another piece of paper. Here they are:

These instructions, which (as you can see) include diagrams, seem clear and straightforward, but left me slightly unsure what to do. Perhaps they would pass every known Plain English test ever devised, and would win a Nobel prize for clarity. But - and it must be me - I hesitated an awfully long time before committing pen to paper, and then splitting that big form into two parts, because the instructions weren't all that comprehensible. At least not to me. Of course, being completely unfamiliar with the procedure, and a bit nervous about messing up, couldn't have helped.

I've had similar problems several times in my life, particularly my working life, whenever somebody has attempted to explain a simple idea in simple words. I lose the thread, and my mind goes blank. It's one reason why I think it's no good my ever having any kind of paid tuition: I'd miss the point, fail to grasp the blindingly obvious, hit a brick wall of misundertanding, and waste my money.

Working it out for myself, in my own good time, is the only way. And if I can't get my head round it, I will cut my mental losses and try something else.

Surely most people must find Postal Voting an absolute breeze. But I thought it was all far from easy. And it had to be done just so. It wasn't something I could leave to my intuition, or my 'best guess'. Perhaps proper online voting, with screen prompts and pop-up information boxes, might work better for me.

Filling in the big form wasn't difficult, although I couldn't see why it had to be one large form when two smaller ones would have been easier to deal with - because the top part was radically different in purpose from the bottom part, and they had to be torn apart along a line which wasn't at all well-defined.

The business of tearing it into two was in fact the major first crisis. Arrows indicated where to tear, but there were no perforations and no dotted line with a scissors symbol next to it. And close by was a definite fold in the paper which a person might take to be the correct tear-line.

However, I parted the two halves where indicated. The voting half, when turned over, didn't match the diagram well.

But it turned out that I had in fact made my tear in the right place. Although I knew that only because when fitting each of the two parts into their respective envelopes, the return addresses ended up exactly aligned with their windows. Phew!

Ah, the envelopes. It emerged that you had to put one inside the other, and post everything off in just one envelope. But you had first to get the right bits in each envelope. Oh, dear me! I was soon and yearning for a reviving cup of tea!

Why wasn't the 'main' envelope, the one that swallowed the other and got posted, called envelope A? It was the more important envelope, at least from the point of view of my vote getting to the place where it would be counted. It made no sense.

At least there was a size difference between the envelopes, so even a batty old ditherer should see which had to go inside which. But they could have said simply:

# Put your voting paper with the Xs on it inside the brown envelope, and seal it if the return address shows in the window.
# Put the paper with your age and signature on it inside the white envelope. Now put the brown envelope inside the white envelope also. Seal the white envelope if the return address shows in the window. 
# Post the white envelope.

I'll have to go through this again in a few days' time, when the MP voting pack arrives. I expect to do better, but it's not a task I'm looking forward to.

Next time, I'll try to be at home when I want to vote. Even if I'd found this Postal Voting easy to follow, it's a sterile method. I like the electric atmosphere of Voting Stations on the big day. I like to be part of the unfolding drama. Casting a Postal Vote seems very, very tame. Almost sneaky, in fact, even though it's the same exercising of Hard-Won Electoral Rights.

Well, it's not for me.


  1. Almost everything we encounter has been devised by people, usually not very bright, who have over worked a simple problem to the point of absurdity. Being so close to the project they have total understanding of all the illogical decisions and obscure language so never thing to use the ultimate test which would be to hand it over to their mother and grand mother. If this test became compulsory they would soon become fed up with the clip around the ear and being castigated for being sloppy and stupid with their work. Within a few months the whole world would work smoothly and a sense of karma would prevail...

    Hate the barrage of campaigners outside polling stations, it was easier crossing angry picket lines in my youth!

  2. It would appear that different authorities have slightly different procedures for postal voting. Here in Gloucestershire, nothing has to be torn or detached. All I do (and have done for several elections now) is:
    1. Vote
    2. Place voting paper in small envelope A
    3. Sign and write my date of birth on the voting statement.
    4. Put the statement and envelope A in large envelope B.
    5. Remember to post it.

  3. The form I fill out every year from your former employer is considerably more complex. Oh how I (don't) love that one!


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