Have a watch of this. I will apologise in advance for the 10 minutes of your life you won’t get back.
I’ve never heard of Christopher Everard before now but clearly he has a bee in his bonnet about the British State (a term I will use to describe the UK government, the British security forces, the British media and the British Royal Family). To be fair, so do I but I like to think I keep a rational lid on it. There is this story going around the internet that the British State rigged the ballot on the 18th September 2014. These claims are primarily based on the short video clips you see included in Chris’ ‘report’, though, to be fair, there are other stories too which I won’t go into here.
I am not going to go into a great deal of criticism about many of the comments made by Mr Everard other than to say he is a man full of opinions, many of them about how wonderful he apparently is.
I am not saying that I KNOW that the British State did not rig the ballot but I am saying, as someone who acted as both Polling Agent and Counting Agent in Aberdeen on the day that I saw NOTHING that suggested anything underhand in the ballot itself, and this is a comment I have made several times on Facebook and Twitter and my fellow Aberdeen Agents have backed this up. I have yet to read a single Agent from anywhere in Scotland claiming they think the vote was rigged either, though I will stand corrected if this is not the case.
I am thankful that one of my fellow Agents has written this piece about the methodology of the actual count itself because it saves me quite a bit of writing.
[Edited to add: and here are two more excellent articles written by someone with considerable experience within Scottish politics and the voting system. http://www.debrastorr.org/2014/09/scottish-referendum-fraud-unlikely.html and http://www.debrastorr.org/2014/09/the-latest-conspiracyblabk-back-ballot.html]
To add a bit of context to my comments below, I am a former police officer who has spent far too many hours of my life looking at CCTV footage in order to obtain evidence about crimes that had allegedly been committed. I have prepared reports for court and have seen the results of court deliberations on what the footage shows. I am using the standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ which is what will be required if any claims of vote rigging are to be taken seriously. If anyone thinks I might be an ‘agent of the state’ or has doubts about my commitment to the Yes campaign I would refer them to any of the well-known people in the Yes campaign in Aberdeen, many of whom got to know me well.
So let’s look at the actual clips of supposed vote rigging:
1. ‘Shifty’ man in high-viz vest is seen to mark something on a piece of paper.
This clip is so short and shows no context whatsoever. The footage is so poor you see no details of the papers he had in front of him nor does anything even point to him even being a enumerator in this referendum (though Mr Everard claims he is at the Edinburgh count). I’m not saying he wasn’t, but it wouldn’t be hard to argue that he wasn’t. The footage should have panned around to show all the people standing around the room and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there was some eagle-eyed Counting Agent standing a metre away from ‘Mr Shifty’ watching him like a hawk.
As someone who stood for long hours and watched people like him doing his job, it looks very like to me that he was bundling the papers into batches of a 100 prior to them being sorted and what he was probably writing was the number of ballot papers he had counted and his signature, on a separate piece of paper and not on a ballot paper. I watched about 2500 such papers taken out of ballot boxes and sorted in front of me. I saw enumerators counting them and writing on slips of paper which they later attached to each bundle by means of a rubber band prior to sorting into Yes and No and long prior to any actual counting of the vote.
In those 2500 or so papers I saw perhaps four or five completely blank ballot papers (and about the same number of spoiled ones )and I watched everyone with a pen like a hawk. None got marked in my view. I later watched a similar number of blank papers get put into the ‘spoiled’ tray for checking. I would guesstimate that in Aberdeen City there might have been 500 completely blank papers coming through the system and EVEN IF all of them were then marked No by some corrupt individual it would have made zero difference to the outcome of the vote.
Mr Everard says that a ‘ballot paper shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than the voter’ but how does he think they get counted? By computer? How trustworthy are they? Everard says ‘he is ‘obviously filling in ballot papers’ but a) there is nothing ‘obvious’ about it (though it you could maybe use the word ‘suspicious’) and b) that would be ‘paper’ singular, not ‘papers’ plural.
Do you remember how the Yes campaign was sabotaged in the media by statements being taken out of context or single events (such as someone being nasty to someone else online) being inflated into a general comment about the whole Yes movement? Mr Everard is using the very same tactics we were so incensed about the British State using against us. We can’t have it both ways folks.
I would finally say I don’t think there is necessarily anything ‘shifty’ about the poor lad. His actions could indicate slight boredom or perhaps he heard a noise or someone walked past. Think about it; if you are going to have someone marking ballot papers in a room full of observers who may or may not be watching at any particular moment (and one with a camera clearly was) would you put them at a table in the public gaze and dress them in high-viz? If MI5 are so clever that they can rig an entire ballot and not be obvious about it, do you not think they might have thought of this minor detail?
2. Clackmannanshire lady
Everard claims that this video shows one of the sorters taking bundles of Yes votes and putting them into the No pile. The actual footage lasts about 2 seconds but because it is repeated it can give the impression she was carrying out the same action over and over again.
Can I add some context to this? The time this was taken is about 2am in the morning. That women has probably spent the last hour or so sorting horrible bits of papers (I am describing the paper quality of the ballot papers which I saw made life difficult for the enumerators) and she is almost certainly going cross-eyed from looking at ‘X’s on bits of paper. I know I was certainly going cross-eyed watching two women, working side by side, doing that very job for two hours in Aberdeen. She has, fairly obviously from my perspective, put two No ballots in the Yes tray and then gone to put a Yes one in the No tray at which point her brain has caught up with her and she has rectified her mistake. Hardly ‘bundles’, would we agree?
I watched, along with a LibDem agent from the No side, 1500 or so ballot papers sorted in this manner and in that time there were four mistakes made. Two Yes ballots were put into the No tray and two No ballots were put into the Yes tray. Eagle-eyes here spotted three of the four mistakes (I got all of the Yes papers put into the No tray but missed one of the No papers put into the Yes one), as did my opposite number (in the reverse ratio) and one of them was picked up by one of the sorting women as well. I am as satisfied as I can be that there were no mistakes, yet alone fraudulent actions, committed at my station but even if one or two papers did slip by unnoticed it was a) not enough to swing the result in any way, and b) probably cancelled out mistakes made in the opposite direction.
3. ‘No’ table showing Yes slips
I cannot be 100% sure what is going on here but I can’t help but wonder if the very next minute of footage not shown on Sky News was one of the Counting Agents asking for those ballot papers to be removed from the No pile. But the more likely explanation is that this pile of ballot papers are the ones which have been taken out of the ballot boxes, sorted into bundles of 100 before going on to be sorted into Yes and No piles before the actual count.
Certainly, we, in Aberdeen, heard something about this story and were told to be very watchful to ensure similar events did not occur here. I cannot for a moment imagine that if we Yes Counting Agents knew about it in Aberdeen then Yes Counting agents would have been all over it in Clackmannanshire (along with several Counting Agents for No as well because the vast majority of Agents on both sides were looking out for democracy and not simply for their side to win). I am 99.999999% sure that had this been organised rigging nobody would have been so stupid as to put Yes ballots in clear view on top of a pile of No votes. It would have been very easy to place those papers inside a bunch of No ballots so if this is the work of MI5 then they need to go back to spy school.
I have no doubt whatsoever that isolated instances of attempted vote rigging went on and anyone who has specific allegations to make should, most certainly, contact Police Scotland (on 101, it is not a 999 call) and report it and provide statements and evidence if they have it. I am aware that there is an allegation that around ten (to clarify, 10) or so people in Glasgow turned up to vote to find that they apparently already had. The Police were immediately informed and those ten (10) numbered ballot papers were supposed to have been removed from the ballot boxes prior to being counted. If this was repeated a hundred times across Scotland that is 1000 votes tampered with.
We lost by 400,000 votes people. That is a lot of tampering .
We lost. Accept it. Move on. Gird your loins for the next phase which is the 2015 General Election but stop wasting your time, energy and credibility on challenging this result. Even if we were robbed of this referendum by the British State (which I do not believe we were) we can only challenge the decision under the auspices of the British State and so they can rig that too (and that would be relatively simple to do now compared to rigging the ballot on the 18th). At the moment, those of you (I am not going to say ‘us’) who are keeping this vote rigging story going are doing the whole independence campaign a disservice. You know how the media loves to spin a story to make us all look like complete cretins because of the actions of a handful of idiots. Please don’t be one of the idiots.
The Scottish people were robbed of a fair referendum by a UK government and a complicit media who showed only half of the arguments being presented to the people. That is the real story. They didn’t need rig the actual ballot on the day because they had already won by lying to the electorate. That is what we need to focus on, getting the message across next time, not fighting yesterday’s battles over and over again.