Michael Gove has defended a “frankly astounding” letter he sent to voters encouraging them to send election registration forms to him.
The Cabinet Office Secretary sent pre-paid envelopes to his constituents, along with a letter urging them to register for a postal vote to avoid the risk of catching Covid-19 at polling stations.
But while the letter, signed by Mr Gove, includes the address of the local elections office, the free post envelopes are addressed to his local Conservative association.
The letter reads: “If you prefer to do so, you are welcome to use the free post envelope supplied and we will hand it in on your behalf.”
Electoral Commission guidance states: “Because of the risk of suspicions that the application may be altered and the risk of the application form being delayed or lost in transit, the local Electoral Registration Officer’s address should be the preferred address given for the return of application forms.”
Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy, said: “It’s frankly astounding that the most senior Minister at the Cabinet Office hasn’t read his own guidance on Postal Votes. The guidance is clear.
Politicians and political parties shouldn’t handle Postal Votes because of the risk of Postal Vote fraud.”
He added: “For a government that talks at length about the perceived risk of massive Postal Fraud, they need to look much closer to home – in Ministers’ constituency offices!”
A spokesperson for Michael Gove declined to say how many people the letter had been sent to, or why Mr Gove’s office address was used on the envelopes.
He said: “It is common practice and within the law for political parties to encourage local residents to vote by post, through sending out postal vote application forms.
“Given the wider Covid situation, more people may wish to vote by post in this May’s local elections”