EVER at the forefront when it comes to testing out new stuff, Swindon is to help pilot a scheme to wipe out voter fraud.

For next year’s local elections, anybody who can’t produce their polling card when they arrive at the polling station will have to produce some form of photo ID instead.

The aim is to reduce the likelihood of dodgy folk being able to swing elections in marginal areas by pretending to be other people and nicking their votes.

The Electoral Reform Society describes the new measure as being a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, on account of the fact that there are few instances of voter fraud.

I don’t know about you, but I find that response a bit troubling.

We can only hope the Electoral Reform Society is never given responsibility for, say, dealing with escaped and very peckish tigers.

Imagine the announcement: “We can confirm that a great big tiger, Mister Stripey, escaped from the circus before he had time to eat any breakfast, and was last seen heading for Swindon.

“Each Swindonian’s chance of being eaten by Mister Stripey on any given day is only about 200,000, although these odds can fluctuate depending on how fast they can run or whether they are at least able to run faster than other people in the vicinity, should Mister Stripey make an appearance.

“Accordingly, putting in the time and effort needed to catch Mister Stripey would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut…”

It’s only right that the democratic process should be safeguarded by ensuring each voter is exactly who they say they are. Having voters who were completely different people from the ones they claimed to be would be as disastrous and demoralising as having candidates who were completely different people from the ones they claimed to be. Just think how awful it would be if some of them made promises about their intentions before an election, only to do the complete opposite if they were elected.

Or if they said they were a certain type of human being, only for it later to emerge that they were a different kind of human being entirely, one most of us wouldn’t trust to take responsibility for a pub kitty.

In order to be completely sure that such a nightmare scenario can never happen, perhaps it’s time for an even more thorough rethink of the way our elections are run.

I’ve always favoured a system in which everybody is legally obliged to vote, but has the option of putting their cross next to a box saying they do not wish to support any of the candidates.

Then, if more than half of the electorate tick that box, all candidates are disqualified for the next five years or so and the poll is rerun with a completely new list.

Prison isn’t about spicing up inmates’ lives

A WOMAN has courageously spoken to us about drug problems at Erlestoke Prison.
She says her husband, a prisoner, was well on the way to being rehabilitated before being sent to Erlestoke, only to be exposed to cannabis substitute Spice and descend into addiction.
At one point an ambulance had to be called after a hit of the drug left him unconscious.
The Ministry of Justice says it is putting a variety of measures in place to tackle the problem, including recruiting more staff and drug-testing more prisoners.
I have an idea as to how this problem might best be tackled. Perhaps I’m being a bit revolutionary here, but could it be that drug problems in our prisons stem from drugs getting into prisons in the first place?
Is it possible that there might be less of a problem if visitors were greeted by a sign saying: “Please leave all bags and other containers at reception and submit to a search no more rigorous than you might expect at an airport.
“Alternatively, you’ll be separated by a clear screen from the prisoner you’re visiting.
“Oh, and if you do happen to be carrying any drugs and we catch you, congratulations! You’ll be spending the next decade or so as our guest. 
“We realise this might cause a little familial inconvenience, but look on the bright side. The worst that could happen is that the children will be taken away and adopted by decent human beings.”
Add to these measures a rule saying any member of staff found to be involved would be locked up for twice as long, and I reckon we’d be well on the way to solving the problem. 
Putting such a system in place could be accomplished with relatively little expense added to the prison budget.
I can’t think why nobody’s tried it before.
Well, not unless important people think tolerating a certain amount of drug use will keep prisoners placid and prevent the entire creaking system from going up like a Roman candle…