Campaign to Defend the Right to a Secret Ballot

The Campaign to Defend the Right to a Secret Ballot (CDRSB) was formed in 2002 to oppose the unlimited use of postal ballots begun by the Blair government in 2000. The 1872 UK Ballot Act protected this right by requiring that voters be witnessed to cast their vote in secret at polling stations. Postal ballots could only be used throughout the 20th century by voters unable through absence from home or illness to cast their vote in a polling station. In this way employers and landlords were prevented from demanding that their employees and tenants vote under their scrutiny. Unlimited use of postal ballots undermines the right to a secret ballot: it also leads to an increase in electoral fraud. It is the Left who are the chief advocates of reforms supposedly aimed to encourage voter participation by lowering standards of integrity in regard to the electoral process. Leftist reforms on postal ballots stand in stark contrast to long established practice not only in the UK but on an international scale. In Australia, where the Right to a Secret Ballot was established long before even the UK, restrictions on the use of postal ballots remain unchanged. Moreover, postal ballots are counted separately in Australia such that the likelihood of fraud is both more easily detected and consequently also better deterred. In the UK postal ballots are deliberately mixed in with normal ballots as if to help conceal, not expose, fraud. The CDRSB opposes the use of postal ballots on demand and supports the separate counting of postal ballots as in Australia.

The CDRSB held a Conference on International Electoral Standards to address this matter at the UN in New York in 2006. A wide range of constitutional issues connected to the use of postal ballots on demand were discussed at the conference, including attempts by the UK Blair regime to undermine the Right to Trial by Jury. Against this background our program includes not only our policy of opposing the use of postal ballots on demand but also our proposals for constitutional reforms which may help moderate conflict between conservatism and radicalism in order to encourage an honest, cooperative approach to democratic government. These proposals, together with the historical and political analysis upon which they are based, are as follows.

It may be reasonably stated that most conflict in the last two centuries arose ultimately as a consequence of the failure to fulfil the aspirations of American revolutionary radicalism in the regulation of inherited wealth and the development of non partisan forms of political participation and decision making most especially in regard to their role in facilitating ongoing systemic change. This failure may be attributed principally to two main factors: first, the incompetence and corresponding extremism of French revolutionary radicalism; second, the insufficient strength of American revolutionary radicalism in overcoming single-handedly the forces of global conservatism following the French defeat. Notwithstanding certain limited merits the various autocratic, confused theoretical legacies of Jacobin extremism – including stealth Marxism - have impeded and obstructed democratic progress. The reasons for these shortcomings are rooted in the comparatively more backward level of French and European social and political development. Democratic progress may therefore best be assured by reaffirming the main achievements and aspirations of the American founders. Accordingly alongside our defence of the Right to a Secret Ballot there are two main policy areas addressed by the CDRSB program aimed at defending democracy and helping to resolve conflict between radicalism and conservatism.

First, the defence and promotion of Trial by Jury. One of the chief merits of trial by jury is that it helps to constrain the influence of factions, including both governing and secret factions, upon the judicial process. The right to trial by jury is the last legal defence against tyranny short of open rebellion. Its denial is cited in the American Declaration of Independence as one of the foremost acts of despotism against which the colonists began their revolution. The CDRSB seeks accordingly to halt and reverse the erroneous tendency, warned of by Blackstone, to ‘sap and undermine’ the right to trial by jury which has been underway since the nineteenth century. In particular, we oppose actions by the Blair regime aimed at undermining this right, including its decision taken at the European Council special meeting in October 1999 in Tampere to agree to the principle of equality of justice systems across the EU – that is to say, placing trial by jury on a par with juryless trial in other states. The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was created from this manoeuvre by removing all extradition safeguards against trials in juryless European states. The CDRSB opposes the European Arrest Warrant. Twelve of the present 28 EU member states and 18 of the intended 36 EU member states are former communist administrations. The CDRSB also seeks to reinstate the right to trial by jury in UK Employment Law most especially with regard to the rights of whistleblowers. We support the reinstatement of grand juries and exploration of possibilities for developing the role of juries in courts of appeal, such as the US Supreme Court. As a general principle, the CDRSB upholds the right of appeal to a jury in regard to any administrative decision affecting individual rights. We also seek to develop the role of juries in legislative procedure, with particular regard to the adjudication of policy disputes on questions of long term, systemic change, whether that be in citizen assemblies comprised of verifiably randomly selected delegates, grand juries, or constitutional courts which include juries.

Second, the CDRSB seeks to promote understanding in politics, philosophy and economics of the constitutional principle formulated by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine that ‘the earth belongs to the living.’ We propose combining development of the jury form of democracy as indicated above with the establishment of longer term electoral cycles alongside existing shorter term cycles in order that long term questions of ongoing systemic change may be dealt with upon a less polarised and accordingly more securely peaceful foundation. In regard to taxation policy we conduct research as to whether it is a self evident truth of common sense that of the three main classes of taxation – labour, enterprise and inheritance, it is the latter class which is the most socially just class of taxation. This relation can apply in both high tax, socialistic and low tax, capitalistic economies.

7th October 2014

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