Electoral Fraud and How to Stop It by Jean Calder

I hate electoral fraud, not just because it undermines democracy, but because it insults the memory  of those who have fought and died for the right to vote. 

When I first came to this country, almost all voting took place on polling day, in privacy and in the polling booth. Registration was determined by where you lived on a particular date – 10th October – and though that was overly restrictive, it had the benefit of not allowing people to ‘multi-register’.  Voters needed proof of illness (or a need to travel) to obtain a postal vote, the police guarded the  polling booths and it was unheard of for anyone to ‘assist’ someone to make their cross on a ballot paper. The only exception would be if someone was severely disabled and needed physical assistance, in which case it would be provided by a council official, observed by colleagues. These council officials strictly enforced rules preventing candidates or their supporters from harassing, or even approaching, people on the way in to the polling station. Even large posters could be removed.

Since then, the Electoral Commission’s obsession with widening the register and making it easier to vote, especially by post, has made the system wide open to abuse. Many regulations have been swept away while others are simply not enforced. It has made it far easier to ‘personate’ individuals; to pressurise people into voting in a particular way; and to commandeer or steal postal voting papers.

Over the past few years, evidence of fraud has been mounting. The Tower Hamlets case is only the most recent.  

I’ve seen nothing to convince me that former Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman is any thing other than what Judge Richard Mawrey QC, the Election Commissioner, said he was, a corrupt, ambitious man who blatantly broke electoral law for his own interests, using a section of the local community to do it.  If he appeals and presents evidence that the original allegations were wrong, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it, but I don’t think for a moment that will happen. I hope the police will finally act on the information they have held for so long.

I would suggest that the four individuals who put their careers and finances on the line by bringing the case against Rahman, whatever their politics, have in them far more of the Poplar Council spirit, than Rahman and his cohorts. It must have taken real courage to persevere in the face of allegations of racism and islamophobia. There has been a cowardly conspiracy of silence around electoral fraud and a shameful lack of action by most politicians, the police and Crown Prosecution Service. It needs to stop.

I hope that Parliament will:

  • return to the system of registering people according to where they live on a particular date
  • prosecute fraudulent registration and other breaches of electoral law
  • stop postal voting on demand and actively encourage people (especially women) to attend the polling station
  • stop the mobbing of polling station entrances
  • stop interference with voting inside polling stations, including by family members,
  • require voters to produce ID when receiving a ballot paper.

Tighter regulation in Northern Ireland has gone a long way to making elections fairer. Similar changes in Britain are long overdue. 

Jean Calder, electoral fraud, personation, postal voting, Electoral Commission, Election Commissioner, Poplar Council, Judge Richard Mawrey, mobbing of polling stations, Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets

3 Responses

  1. I was surprised to find that it was legal for the Trade Union party to give out leaflets close to the Polling Station on Norton Road and at Hove Library.

    Not that it did them much good: the voting figures suggest that people regarded this as the action of slackers who could not be bothered to go from door to door for months with leaflets but took people for fools who would be swayed by reading a leaflet during a few yards’ walk.

  2. Abuse is indeed easier and Jean has highlighted how this is so. Forty years ago when I was active in Brighton politics I heard a case of a matron of an old peoples home filling in postal ballots for residents-who all happened to have voted the same way! I also heard of an ex-councillor who persuaded students to impersonate no show voters in the 1966 General Election. So abuse isn’t new just more widespread.

    • When I stood in Westbourne Ward in 2003 and went to a few residential homes, I came away pretty rattled. And my visits were not welcomed. Nor was I ever allowed to meet any voting residents. And yes; I too became aware of ‘block voting’ being done on behalf of those people.

      One ‘home’ in particular, where I was allowed access, in Sackville Road, was full of people lined up either side of a narrow corridor, one woman wailing miserably and in a diaper with very little else to cover her and with a man sitting opposite her. It was clear they all had dementia and I was given silent, cynical looks by wary staff and I left wondering about their votes.

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