Calderdale ‘at risk’ of election fraud says elections watchdog

editorial image
Have your say

Strict measures should be in place at elections in Calderdale to prevent voting fraud according to the Electoral Commission.

The body is calling for all voters to show proof of identity when they turn up at polling stations before they can cast their vote.

It also wants a further tightening of the rules in an attempt to stamp out ballot-rigging and restore trust in the electoral system.

At the same time, the commission has launched a study into concerns that some South Asian communities - notably those with roots in parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh - were particularly susceptible to electoral fraud.

Calderdale is one of sixteen local authority areas - all of them in England - that have been identified as being at greater risk of complaints of alleged vote-rigging being reported.

Others on the list are Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Coventry, Derby, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall, and Woking.

The commission said it was essential that electoral registration officers, returning officers and police forces in those areas put in place measures to protect the integrity of the vote before the next set of local and European elections in May.

Conservative candidate David Ginley was dropped by the party after allegations over vote fraud while Philip Allott running as Tory candidate for Halifax raised complaints with the police over voting anomalies in the 2010 election which were never upheld.

In its final report of electoral fraud in the UK, the commission rejected calls to restrict access to postal voting - which has been at the centre of many of the allegations - saying it would prevent many innocent people from casting their vote.

However it said the existing code of conduct needed to be strengthened to ensure campaigners do not handle postal votes or voting application forms. It warned that it would seek legislation if the problem was not resolved voluntarily.

It also called for legislation to be in place by 2019 at the latest requiring voters in England, Scotland and Wales to produce proof of identity before they are issued with a ballot paper at a polling station, bringing them in line with Northern Ireland.

Overall, the commission found that electoral fraud was not widespread and was unlikely to have been attempted in no more than a “handful” of wards in any particular local authority area.

It also said that would be a “mistake” to suggest that it was confined to certain South Asian communities - with people from white British and other European backgrounds also involved.

Nevertheless the commission said that it was concerned about the extent to which ballot-rigging “affects or originates from within specific communities”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The Government takes the issue of electoral fraud very seriously and we thank the Electoral Commission for their work on this issue. We will consider the recommendations in this report carefully and respond in due course.

“We welcome the Electoral Commission’s finding that there is no widespread electoral fraud, but there is no room for complacency. That’s why we are ending the outdated system of household registration and introducing individual electoral registration.

“By requiring identification information such as date of birth and National Insurance number, we can verify that everyone on the register is who they say they are. This is vital as we create a register in which everyone can be fully confident and which reduces the risk of fraud and duplication.

“We are also legislating to require 100% of postal vote identifiers to be checked in UK polls, rather than a minimum of 20%, and to enable police community support officers to enter polling stations and count venues, which will further safeguard against electoral fraud.”