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Electoral fraud: high stakes highlighted in new report

Published: 24 Mar 2017

Data on the number and type of electoral fraud allegations reported to the police during 2016 has been published by The Electoral Commission. The report compiles data gathered from police forces across the UK to provide a comprehensive national picture of cases of alleged electoral fraud offences and the outcomes of those cases.

During 2016, police forces across the UK recorded a total of 260 cases of alleged electoral fraud. The report highlights a number of recently concluded cases, including two which resulted in successful prosecutions and convictions:

  • A successfully elected local government candidate was found guilty of submitting a fraudulent electoral registration application and nomination form, and was sentenced to two months in prison and disqualified from standing for election for five years.
  • A voter at the EU referendum pleaded guilty to voting twice at the same polling station, and was given a Community Payback Order of 300 hours and disqualified from standing for election for five years.

Suspects in six further cases accepted police cautions. At the time of publication, police forces are awaiting prosecution advice in relation to a further five cases and 40 cases remain under investigation.

Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance at the Electoral Commission, said:

“It is important that voters are confident that the police and prosecuting authorities take allegations of electoral fraud seriously. The findings from our report show that significant sentences will be imposed when electoral law is broken, and that those responsible for electoral fraud can face jail.

“Voters should be confident that they can report any concerns about electoral fraud. Anyone who has evidence that an electoral offence has been committed should contact the police immediately or report it anonymously through the Crimestoppers website or 0800 555 111”

The data released today shows that 2016 saw an increase in the proportion of cases which related to voting offences, including personation at polling stations, in comparison to other types of electoral offence. One case of personation at a polling station offence led to a conviction, and suspects in a further three cases accepted police cautions.

The Commission has previously recommended that voters should be required to provide proof of their identity at polling stations in Great Britain, in line with practice in Northern Ireland since 2003.

The data also shows that there has been a reduction in the proportion of cases of alleged electoral fraud which relate to electoral registration offences since 2010, with a more significant reduction in 2015 and 2016.

The UK Government has indicated its intention to strengthen offences, penalties and legal challenge processes through primary legislation following a review of electoral law by the UK’s three Law Commissions. The Commission supports their aim to update and clarify the law and will work with the UK Government and other partners, including the Law Commissions, to further explore the options, in order to ensure voter confidence in the system.

The full report is available to view here: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/223184/Fraud-allegations-data-report-2016.pdf

Ends

For further information contact Megan Phillips in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0714 or email mphillips@electoralcommission.org.uk

Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editor

  1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
    * enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    * regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
    * using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency
  2. The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
  3. The Electoral Commission does not have a role in investigating electoral fraud but provides guidance, advice and support to police forces and local authorities. More information on fraud responsibilities can be found on the Commission's website here.
  4. The Commission published a review of electoral fraud vulnerabilities in January 2014. The full report can be viewed here.
  5. Cases of electoral fraud are defined as cases relating to offences under the Representation of the People Act (RPA) 1983. Complaints which did not relate to electoral fraud offences in 2016 included allegations of: theft or damage to property, election material or vehicles; stalking; trespassing; taunting; blocking a polling station car park; malicious communications, race comments; offensive tweets or letters; assault; intimidating canvassers; copyright infringement.

Journalist