Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Should you know where your candidates live?

When I filled in my nomination form details for Garston and Halewood I noticed that the forms had changed.

Instead of just writing on your address, you were given the option of ticking a box to keep your address secret.

If you did that your address wouldn't appear on the ballot paper. Instead there would be a vague statement about living in a particular constituency.

Apparently this is the first time since the Ballot Act of 1872 that some candidates have decided to keep their addresses secret this way.

I'm told that the arguments in favour of allowing this included fears that MPs might be worried about speaking up if people knew their exact address or that the publication of the address might make it easier for people wanting to harass them to track them down.

But surely where you live is one of the facts that people take into account when deciding how to vote? It's hard to argue for transparency if you won't even say where you live.

Like most, if not all, local councillors I publish my home address and home contact details. And I had no problem putting my home address in Garston on the ballot paper.

But I understand that quite a few candidates across the country have chosen to keep theirs secret. A work colleague who lives in Cheshire and has a postal vote tells me she is appalled that the Tories' George Osborne is one of these to make this choice.

Perhaps this is a rule change that needs to be rechanged after the election.

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