I stumbled across a blog post by the London-based Tory blogger Iain Dale from 3rd May 2007. He highlights an article from that day’s Independent by Andy McSmith on Labour’s campaign for the Scottish parliament elections held that day, which Dale rightly describes as “deeply worrying”. After a bit of Googling I found the full text of the original article. As in the referendum, the article implies widespread illegal sampling of postal votes. On top of the action described being “worrying”, it is also disturbing that this description could appear in a national newspaper and no one, not the Electoral Commission, not the returning officers in Ochil or Kelvin or Strathkelvin & Bearsden, nor any journalists or politicians, other than Iain Dale, seems to have thought this admission in any way suspect.
Dale’s blog had, and still does have, a large following of people not naturally inclined to be sympathetic to Labour, so many of the comments below his post are anti-Labour abuse, but other comments provide an insight into how widespread is a misunderstanding of the relevant law and how commonplace the practice might have become.
Taking “samples for your own purposes to see how things are going” may be “often quite easy”, but it is more than “dodgy”, it is illegal. If we lived in a World where the Electoral Commission did their job of making sure that everyone understood what was and what wasn’t illegal, then publishing the results of postal vote sampling wouldn’t be “dodgy”, it would be reckless.