Source: Electoral Commission
I feel I exist in three worlds at the moment
- My everyday life, where I see everyone going about their normal day to day activities with only the occasional sticker on a car or in a window to show there’s a referendum campaign underway
- The official campaigns themselves, by turn repetitious, tetchy, combative, but also fundamentally important and, at their best, enlightening
- The febrile online world of social media, where all sorts of weirdness and abuse can happen.
Part of the online weirdness is the conspiracy theory, although of course if you believe in that sort of stuff you will shake your head knowingly at my naivety in characterising it as weird.
One conspiracy theory that seems to have gained ground in the last few days is that the referendum itself will somehow be rigged. I won’t cite the various social media where this belief emerges but it usually appears in the form that ‘they’ will ferry in people to vote who shouldn’t, fiddle the postal votes, stuff ballot boxes, rig the count, change people’s ballot papers from ‘Yes’ to a ‘No,’ and so on.
Most of this emerges from people who say they’re going to vote ‘Yes’ and I can understand, in a certain mind set, how that might be in the wake of the Salmond-Darling debate and a number of polls that show the ‘Yes’ campaign isn’t doing too well. But I knew the theory had well and truly taken hold when someone who’s going to vote ‘No’ said they weren’t filling in their ballot paper in pencil in case their ‘X’ was changed.
Here’s the truth.
You’re all bonkers.
If there’s one thing I would wager my modest life savings on it is that the referendum poll will be conducted with the utmost probity.
I say this as someone who worked in local government for many years and toiled occasionally as a foot soldier in the regular elections that council chief executives organise for their areas. I was a polling clerk, I counted votes, and once when there was a cock up (sorry, administrative error – it was actually caused by a commercial printer) I spent a happy day sorting and delivering poll cards for various isolated cottages and farms in the North East.
I also worked for a chief executive who took his role as returning officer very seriously, as I believe they all do.
If you’re shaking your head wisely and murmuring ‘Ah, yes, but he would say that, wouldn’t he?’ check out the Electoral Commission’s Scottish referendum web site. You’ll find everything there that should convince you the referendum will be run on exemplary lines.
If you’re really suspicious and want to check out how the votes are being counted (‘Ooh, look, did that dodgy guy with the MI5 badge just stuff 20 “Yes” votes in his trouser pocket?’) you can apply to be an observer at the count. Go on, do it, allay your paranoia.
And if you still think the whole thing’s a giant conspiracy by the establishment I can only offer you the traditional Scottish advice
Awa an’ boil yer heid.