The Reading Post reports (27 Apr 2010) that Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Daisy Benson has joined forces with a service wife to campaign for fairer votes for forces personnel overseas.
And she said the air crisis caused by volcano ash could make matters even worse this year.
Devina Worsley, who lives in Germany but originally comes from Tilehurst, has been campaigning for two years to enable service personnel and their families posted overseas to vote more easily. Under the current electoral system there are only 11 days between the Statement of Persons Nominated and Polling Day for postal ballots to be returned.
It is possible to vote by proxy but Mrs Worsley, whose parents live in Riley Road in Tilehurst, thinks this is a poor substitute to a secret ballot.
She wants the period extended and more done to help overseas service personnel cast their ballot securely and in secret.
She first encountered problems while trying to vote at the last election in 2005 having recently moved abroad with her husband who is in the services.
She raised her concerns with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg at a Town Hall meeting he held in Reading in 2008. Mr Clegg promised to take up the issue and Cllr Benson liaised with the offices of Mr Clegg and Lib Dem MPs Lembit Opik and Nick Harvey to ensure it was raised in Parliament.
Cllr Benson said: “Service personnel put their lives on the line for us so it’s really important they get a chance to cast a ballot in secret like everyone else – a proxy vote just isn’t the same.”
She added: “However, it is a pity that government has not acted more swiftly in response to Lib Dem pressure to ensure no service personnel from Reading or West Berkshire currently posted overseas miss their chance to vote in these crucial upcoming elections.”
Mrs Worsley said: “I had previously raised the matter with ministers in the Labour government and my local Conservative MP but had got nowhere. I was delighted to have Daisy’s assistance in following the matter up with Nick Clegg and members of his team in Parliament over a period of months.”
She added: “While efforts are finally being made by the Government to get postal ballots out to our troops in Afghanistan – the postal votes are not guaranteed to get back in time, as I understand – no special efforts are being made to get postal ballots to personnel in Cyprus, Iraq, the Falklands, Belize, etc.
“Those serving their country overseas, continue to be effectively disenfranchised by our electoral system.
“Their votes are simply unlikely to get back in time to count. The alternative, a proxy vote, is not a secret vote and does not always get people the vote they want.”
- Reading Post article (illustrated), by Linda Fort: 'Forces need fairer votes', says Lib Dem hopeful