Cherwell has learned that many students illegally voted twice in yesterday’s general election.
Speaking anonymously, students admitted they had already cast a vote for the general election in their home constituency by post before voting in person in Oxford.
Others were surprised at the ease with which they were able to, and in some cases encouraged, to vote twice.
Jack Matthews, a third-year Earth Scientist from St Peter’s, was shocked to find that he was encouraged to cast a second vote by one Polling Officer at Carfax ward yesterday morning.
He was told that voting twice was a “quirk for students” and that “no one would know”.Matthews said, “I told the Officer that I was only voting in the City Council local election.
“The Polling Officer said, quite understandably, that you can vote in the general election too. I explained I had already voted elsewhere by a postal vote.
“Her reply was ‘Well, you know, you can vote twice, it’s a quirk for students’. I replied that no, I was not allowed to vote twice as that would be illegal. She looked back at me rather confused and then said ‘Nobody will know'”.
A student from St Catherine’s admitted that she had voted three times. “Every time someone sent me a polling card I filled it in and sent it off. This happened three times, so I hope I’m not doing anything illegal.”
Yesterday, signs on the walls of polling stations around Oxford and the country read, “You are guilty of an offence if you vote more than once whether by post or in person, or as proxy and in the same electoral area. You could face imprisonment or a fine if found guilty”.
Yet some students complained that they were not made sufficiently aware of the law.One student told Cherwell she had voted twice. She said, “I applied to be given a postal vote for my home constituency, then also registered in Oxford without thinking about it when our college asked if I would like to.
“I assumed that the Council must have known what they were doing, so I sent off my postal vote, and then this morning went to the polling station in Oxford expecting to be turned away. But I wasn’t, so I went ahead and voted.”
Outside the polling station on Blue Boar Street, a student told a Cherwell reporter that although he had voted in his home constituency by postal vote, his younger siblings had also used his polling card to cast his vote in person.
A spokesperson from the Electoral Commission told Cherwell that they were not aware of any allegations made to the police concerning students voting twice since their creation in 2000.
The spokesperson stressed that “Students can vote twice at local elections, if they are registered in two different local authority areas, but not at general elections. We want to make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote.
“This includes students, who have a right to be on the electoral register at their term address as well as their home address. Students are obliged to provide the correct information when making their application.
“They must choose the parliamentary constituency in which they will cast their vote. Voting in two constituencies for the general election is electoral fraud and is a matter for the police to investigate.”
A number of students told Cherwell that they had presented Polling Officers with their City Council elections polling card, only to be handed a ballot paper for the general election as well.
If officers in polling stations were offering general election voting slips to all students throughout the day, several hundred illegal votes could have been cast.
Three Magdalen students told how they cast their votes at the St Clements Family Centre on Cross Street in Oxford East without their polling cards and without being asked for any ID. “The lack of security is pretty shocking – we could have been literally anyone, as they did not ask us to prove our identity in any way.”
There were further voting problems at LMH, where 65 students found out that they had not been registered to vote by the College. Many travelled home, or managed to arrange to vote by proxy or by post in their home constituency.
JCR President Genevieve Clarke said, “The policy at LMH is that the College registers you if you live in. While the Pipe Partridge Building was being renewed, 65 students were living out in accommodation organised by LMH for students that could not live in the new building.
“Students involved are quite upset that college did not tell them or notify them, as they were still effectively living in college accommodation.”
Amelia Regan, a second-year history student at LMH, said, “We were under the impression that everyone would be registered to vote. We heard that people living out would not be, but we were still paying rent to college, so we assumed that College had sorted it all out.”