The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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Electoral fraud data and analysis

Electoral fraud and the public perception of fraud undermines democracy and weakens the United Kingdom’s strong tradition of free and fair elections. We take the risk of electoral fraud very seriously.

Every year all police forces across the UK send us data about allegations of electoral fraud.

Electoral fraud happens when someone has deliberately tried to cheat at an election. This could be if someone pretended to be someone else and used their vote, made false statements about the personal character of a candidate, or influenced someone to vote against their will.

Electoral fraud offences are set out in the Representation of the People Act (RPA) 1983.

Key findings of allegations of electoral fraud in 2018

There is no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud relating to the 2018 local elections.

While UK police forces investigated 266 cases of alleged electoral fraud in 2018, there was only one conviction for a minor offence and two police cautions.

Case outcomes

As of 1 March 2019, there had been one conviction from an electoral fraud case in 2018. This was where a candidate forged signatures on his nomination form so he could stand in the election.

In two separate case, two suspects were given and accepted police cautions. One was the result of a candidate who registered to vote at two different addresses and voted (by post) twice. The other was someone who voted using someone else’s postal vote by mistake.

Of the 266 cases that were investigated, 191 needed no further action. A further 55 were resolved locally with informal advice given either by the police or the Returning Officer. 17 cases are still under investigation or are awaiting advice from the Crown Prosecution Service. We will continue to monitor these.

Outcome of allegations of electoral fraud reported in 2018

Types of cases

Of the 266 cases investigated by police forces during 2018, more than half were allegations about campaigning offences (140 cases). Most of these were:

  • allegations about someone making false statements about the personal character or conduct of a candidate (69 cases)
  • allegations about not including details about the printer, promoter and/or publisher on election material - an ‘imprint’ (49 cases)

Types of allegations of electoral fraud reported in 2018

Types of allegations of electoral fraud recorded by police forces since 2010

Case studies

Returning Officers, police forces and prosecutors take allegations of electoral fraud seriously. They investigate allegations using appropriate resources and make sure offenders are prosecuted if necessary.

Here are all 2018 cases where the suspect was either convicted or accepted a police caution.

Local elections - May 2018

Cambridgeshire police (Peterborough) - false signatures on a nomination form

A Peterborough Green party candidate pleaded guilty to forging all signatures on the nomination form he was required to submit to stand in the May 2018 local government elections.

The candidate admitted the offence when questioned by the police and withdrew his nomination paper before the close of nominations. This meant his name did not appear on the ballot paper.

The candidate was sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was also given a 100-hour Community Service Order and £200 fine.

West Yorkshire police (Wakefield) - postal voting personation

West Yorkshire police received a report that a postal vote cast at the May 2018 elections appeared to have been completed and returned by someone who had died.

The police interviewed the deceased elector’s widow. She had been her husband’s sole carer and would often do his paperwork, fill forms out on his behalf, and when he was too ill to sign things would, when asked, sign them on his behalf.

The interview revealed that this was a genuine mistake in the midst of grief and not a deliberate intention to cast a fraudulent vote. The widow accepted a conditional caution and subsequently wrote a full letter of apology to the Returning Officer.

Greater Manchester police (Rochdale) – false registration and voting more than once

A Labour party candidate seeking re-election had registered to vote at two properties in different Rochdale wards. One was his home address and the other was a property he rented out.

The candidate applied to vote by post from both addresses and went on to vote twice at the elections to Rochdale Council.

It is an offence to vote more than once in the same local election area.

The candidate was interviewed by the police and admitted he had voted twice. Following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service the candidate accepted a caution from the police.

Election petition: May 2018 local government elections

Derbyshire police force (Derby) - election petition based on false statement made about a candidate and an incorrect imprint on election material.

An election petition is a legal challenge to the result of an election.

Following the local council elections in May 2018 an unsuccessful candidate claimed the successful candidate had accused him of being a liar and had circulated election material that did not include an imprint.

There was not enough evidence to prove the imprint allegation, or that the election material had been produced by the candidate.

For an offence to be proven making false statements about a candidate, it must relate to the personal character of the candidate and not their political character. In this case the allegation was found to be based on a difference of opinion and not related to the candidate’s personal character or conduct.

The petition was therefore dismissed.

Police data on allegations of cases of electoral fraud in 2018

Police data on electoral fraud in previous years

While every effort was made to ensure that this information is up to date in cooperation with the relevant police forces, this was not always possible due to the significant time which has elapsed since these cases were first recorded.

As a result, cases recorded as under investigation should be taken to only indicate that it was not possible to gain an update on the eventual outcome.

Electoral fraud