UPDATE: Green campaign group cleared after proxy vote row (The Argus)
The University of Sussex Liberal Democrat Society has accused the Green Party of acting illegally and dishonestly after it emerged the party have been offering Sussex students the chance to sign proxy voting forms already filled in with the details of Green supporters.
These forms enable the Green supporters named to vote on students’ behalf in the national and local elections on May 7, when many will be back at home.
The Electoral Commission (who set the standards for well-run elections in the UK) criticised the actions of the Green Party: “Our non-statutory code of conduct says voters should not be encouraged to appoint a campaigner as a proxy to minimise the risk of suspicions that campaigners are placing undue pressure on voters.
“We have been in contact with the Green Party to make clear that this is not acceptable campaigning behaviour. They have now stopped these activities and we will continue monitoring to make sure there is no repeat.”
The University of Sussex Liberal Democrat Society described the Green Party’s use of proxy forms as “illegal”, despite the Electoral Commission’s guidelines not being written into law.
In a Facebook post on the issue they wrote: “Using proxy votes like this is illegal. Dishonest Greens…”.
Tracey Hill, a Labour local candidate hoping to represent Falmer campus as part of Hollingdean and Stanmer ward spoke to brightonandhovenews.com. She said that the practice didn’t break election law but was highly inappropriate:
“What if the student changes their mind later? They wouldn’t be able to contact their proxy to let them know.”
However, a spokesperson for Students for Caroline defended the use of proxy votes.
She said: “Many students are extremely keen to make sure their voice is counted on May 7, and so some, who know they won’t be able to vote in person or by post because of holiday and postal vote timings, are asking instead for a proxy vote.
“Ideally, we hope as many students as possible will be able to vote in person or by post. But where that just won’t be an option for them, proxy voting is a well-recognised solution they’re able to choose if they’d like.
“It’s obviously all led by them – we just make them aware of all the options available, which I think most people would agree is the right thing to do, and we’ve had students approach us directly to request a proxy vote themselves.
“We follow a code of practice which adheres to official Electoral Commission guidance and we check our campaigners are familiar with it.
“We have checked with town hall electoral services to ensure our student voter campaign operates within all election regulations.”