Following the Electoral Commission submitting their report on the Referendum to the Scottish Parliament and the Devolution Committee hearing evidence from electoral administrators and from the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Committee has today published its Report on the Electoral Management of the Scottish Independence Referendum. The report is clear and makes a range of valuable recommendations for improving elections in Scotland and devolving responsibility for elections further. At 20 pages it is also a much more digestible read than the Electoral Commission’s 150 page magnum opus.
Tacked onto the end of a section headed Public understanding of the electoral process, the Devolution Committee’s report touches on the police investigation into the sampling of ballots at the opening of postal votes:
The Committee is aware that, in a very small number of cases, investigations are on-going into allegations of fraud relating to the counting of votes including into the counting of votes at postal vote opening sessions. Until such time as these investigations are concluded, it would not be appropriate to make any comment with regard to these specific allegations.
It is understandable that the Committee cannot comment in any detail on the investigation, but describing the allegations as being “a small number of cases” seems to downplay the significance of what was alleged and the scope of what is being investigated. The committee took as evidence that there is only a “very small number” of cases a report in the Sunday Post on 28th December that said “Police are currently probing 11 potential referendum frauds, including 10 in the Glasgow area”, but this is only refering to personation frauds, as further on the article says: “Police Scotland Superintendent Jim Baird added: ‘Our specialist crime division is currently investigating 11 potential impersonation offences. These relate to members of the public arriving at a polling station to vote, only to be told that someone else had already been in and used their identity to vote.”