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Electoral Commission statement on outcome of the Tower Hamlets election petition

News release published: 23-04-2015

The Electoral Commission has received a copy of the judgment following the Tower Hamlets election petition. It is now considering the judgment and looking to see whether any lessons can be learned for the future from this case, including the recommendations the judge has made to the Law Commission in its important review of electoral law.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “As this case makes clear, when fraud is attempted, or committed, it is candidates and their supporters who make those attempts or commit those offences - voters are the victims. We welcome that Mr Justice Mawrey made this clear in his statement. Campaigners of all parties need to act in line with the highest standards when communicating with voters.

“We have been working closely with police forces and local Returning Officers across the country, including in Tower Hamlets, to ensure they have robust plans in place to minimise the risk of fraud at the elections in May.

“It’s important that all voters know that no one should try to interfere with their vote.  No one should ask you to give them your postal vote to take away, or ask to see you fill it in. Anyone who has evidence of electoral fraud, or feels that they are being pressured to vote in a particular way, should report this to the police as quickly as possible. Alternatively, voters can report their concerns anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111”.

Action ahead of the May 2015 elections

Police forces, Electoral Registration Officers, Returning Officers, campaigners and the Electoral Commission all have different roles in protecting the integrity of elections but are working together to ensure robust prevention and detection plans are in place ahead of the May elections. This package of measures includes:

  • Guidance on electoral fraud for police forces – this was published in November by the College of Policing, with support from the Commission.
  • Partnership with Crimestoppers –The Commission is working with Crimestoppers to highlight that people can report concerns about fraud anonymously if required.
  • A national training seminar for specialist police officers – the Commission joined specialist police officers from across the UK earlier this year to help them prepare ahead of the elections, and exchange knowledge and strategies.
  • The Code of Conduct for Campaigners – The Commission has been making campaigners aware that they must follow this agreed code. Where we identify activity which breaches the code we follow up with parties to ensure behaviour is changed.
  • Materials for police and local authorities – the Commission has produced a guide for voters at election time. This is being used by police and local authorities  to let voters know what electoral fraud is, how to report it, and what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable campaigning.
  • Monitoring postal voting during and after the May 2015 elections, to identify how well the current security processes are working.

Changes to postal voting and electoral registration

  • 2001: postal voting on demand was introduced and voters were no longer required to give a reason to be issued with a postal vote.
  • 2006: new security measures were introduced following a recommendation from the Electoral Commission and voters were required to give a signature and date of birth when applying for, and casting a postal vote. These are then checked when postal votes are returned, and the votes will not be counted if the details cannot be verified.
  • 2014: Individual electoral registration (IER) was introduced, which the Electoral Commission first called for in 2003. Although IER was not in place in May 2014, since June in England and Wales, and September in Scotland, anyone registering to vote must have their identity verified by providing a date of birth and national insurance number. This makes it much harder to create fictitious electoral register entries, which reduces the risk of fraud, including postal vote fraud.

For further information contact Rosemary Davenport in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0530 or rdavenport@electoralcommission.org.uk
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

 


Journalist