This post raises a very difficult and sensitive issue, and I raise it only in the form of a question, rather than an opinion about what we might do. But its an issue that's been troubling me since an election about a few years ago. But today, I've received an approach from a former constituent about the issue, which I've advised warrants a letter to the Returning Officer. I've also said that I'd like to join the meeting. The approach to me follows rumours and much local concern that all the residents in a particular residential home had all completed postal votes in favour of the same candidate, and this was being widely discussed on the street several days before the election. The implications of what's being said are fairly clear.
When I first stood in a national election in 1997, I visited several residential homes and enjoyed good discussions with potential voters. It was not much different from campaigning in a 'sheltered' complex. But I spend quite a lot of time in residential homes now, and find the environment very different. Many are more as I used to think of nursing homes, where people are much more frail, and where it just didn't seem right to campaign. In fact, I've never campaigned in a nursing home. And I've extended this personal policy to residential homes, where today, I don't find many residents at all engaged with the electoral process.
The implication behind the suggestion made to me today is that someone is improperly 'helping' all the residents in a residential home to fill in their postal vote forms in support of a favoured candidate. Now I've no idea if this is true, but I do know that it is widely rumoured, and is undermining confidence in the electoral process. It needs to be thought about seriously. I accept that it may not be practically possible to entirely remove the possibility for unscrupulousness behaviour, but I do think its worth discussing it with the Returning Officer.