The “integrity of the ballot box” is under threat because councils are allowing interpreters in polling stations, a minister has said.Why am I not surprised by the fact that it was Labour who benefited?
Voters who do not speak English are at risk of being pressured or influenced by translators, undermining local democracy, Brandon Lewis said.
It follows allegations of “remarkable swings” to Labour in recent elections in Tower Hamlets, East London, in cases where it is claimed Bengali interpreters wrongly directed people on how to vote.
Mr Lewis, the local government minister, said council officials, the police and the public are unable to scrutinise the electoral process if officials are speaking to voters in a foreign language.
He told the Commons: “In light of previous instances of electoral fraud, including impersonation in polling stations, postal voting irregularities and allegations of improper influence, Ministers in this department have concerns about the practice of allowing foreign language translators or interpreters inside polling stations.
Cllr Peter Golds, the leader of the Conservative group, claimed a council-employed translator had instructed Bengali women to support Ken Livingstone in the 2008 mayoral election and had checked ballot papers after they had voted to ensure it was “correct”.
Certain wards saw “remarkable swings” where translators were employed, Cllr Golds alleged in a letter to the Electoral Commission sent earlier this month. There is no suggestion Mr Livingstone was aware of any wrong-doing.
I was under the impression (apparently wrongly) that the only people allowed in a polling station were the presiding officers and police and that no one else including party workers were allowed. So having an interpreter available seems like a breach of the law anyway, particularly in the light of quis custodiet ipsos custodes (who guards the guardians) when the presiding officers and the police have no idea what is being said to the voter.
Like the millions
As English is the recognised language of this country, then it should be the only language permitted on official forms and for official business. You want to speak Urdu or Gujarati in your own home, fine, but when dealing with the rest of the country you speak the language that the country speaks.
Otherwise there is the suspicion that by pandering to your laziness, the above happens.