This is getting remarkably little scrutiny, after Irish Times scoop-getter general Fiach Kelly reported it last night:
The Greens have widened the eligibility for members who can vote by telephone on the PfG. Was previously only allowed for those outside the country. Now members who have not received ballot paper can vote by phone. https://t.co/UKsBU23wJG
— Fiach Kelly (@fiachkelly) June 23, 2020
Up until yesterday, you had to be a Green Party member living overseas to “vote by phone”. Now? Any Green member can. A couple of questions are worth asking here, especially in light of this revelation from former Green MEP Patricia McKenna, who clearly feels that something’s not quite kosher:
in 2007, when I ran against John Gormley😇 for leadership after party voted to support the Bertie led PfG, the Green Party allowed people to vote by phone and fax for John🤫, the party rejected my objections😭😭😱. https://t.co/vSavdwji7j
— Patricia McKenna (@Pmckennaa) June 24, 2020
That’s a strong allegation for one of the early leading lights of the Green Party to make. And isn’t she right to be suspicious? There are some fairly obvious questions to ask here, none of which seem to interest the rest of Ireland’s print media.
First, and most obviously: why is it necessary? Who are these Green members who did not receive ballot papers, and why did they not receive them? Is that down to a cock-up by Green HQ, or is it because the database of members is incomplete?
How many members are affected? What is the total number of members that the Greens now say are eligible to vote by phone? Will they publish those figures?
Second: how do you verify that somebody did not receive a ballot paper? Since ballots are being returned anonymously, without any identifying mark (it’s a secret ballot, after all) how can you be sure that someone claiming not to have received a ballot has not, in fact, already voted?
What verification process is in place? How do you make sure that the voting by phone is restricted only to those who genuinely did not receive a ballot, and does not include, for example, those who did receive one, but forgot to post it?
Third: How do you vote, by phone, and maintain the secrecy of the ballot? If it is by text message, then your number will be recorded. If it is by phoning up Green headquarters, then presumably you have to identify yourself by name and membership number? In neither case is it then a secret ballot.
Fourth: How are votes by phone recorded? Presumably, since the majority of ballots will be counted by hand, on bits of paper, somebody in Green Party headquarters will receive your phone vote and fill out a ballot on your behalf? Can nobody see how open that is to abuse?
Fifth: Is this even legal? Changing the rules of a contest most of the way through a contest is questionable at the best of times, but considering the stakes for the Green Party and the entire country here, the integrity of the process is surely paramount, and that rules are followed is essential. Depending on the strength of feeling on the losing side, it is very easy to see how such an action could be subject to judicial review.
Sixth: Is the vote by phone process opt in, or opt out? Is it a case that if you have not voted, you can choose to phone in a ballot, or is it a case whereby staff in Green HQ are phoning up members to solicit a vote from them? What process is in place to ensure that contacts between HQ staff and members are not just canvassing for yes votes, in disguise?
Seventh: Why are we, at Gript, the only ones asking these questions? That one’s obvious enough, though.
It seems to me that there are significant questions that can be asked about the Green Party process here, and plenty of reasons for members who vote “no” to the Programme for Government to feel deeply aggrieved by a close result, should they lose.