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Report on 2010 electoral malpractice cases published

Published: 16 Feb 2011

Nearly 30 million votes were cast in the UK at the 2010 UK Parliamentary General Election, and there is no evidence to date of any widespread, systematic attempts to undermine or interfere with the 2010 elections through malpractice. None of the 232 cases of alleged electoral malpractice reported to the police has been shown to have affected the outcome of the election to which it was related. 

These are among findings from a report published by the Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPOS), analysing data from police about allegations made to them during the period around the May 2010 elections.

This year’s report, the third of its kind, is the first in which data was available from every police force in the UK.  It is important to emphasise that number of case set out refer to allegations of electoral malpractice reported to police forces.  The report also gives details of the outcomes of these cases, where known.

Police forces recorded 232 cases in Great Britain of allegations of electoral malpractice in the election reporting period (see Notes to Editors). The majority of cases of alleged electoral malpractice reported to police (137) required no further action by the police. This was because no offence was found, there was no evidence of electoral malpractice, or it was not possible to detect the individual who might have committed an offence.

To date, two cases have resulted in court proceedings with one leading to a conviction. Two cases have concluded with police cautions and 23 with the police giving informal advice. At the end of 2010, 68 cases were either still under police investigation or awaiting advice from prosecutors.

Of the 232 cases of allegations in Great Britain included in the analysis, 216 were recorded by police forces in England, while seven cases were recorded in Scotland and six in Wales.  In Northern Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland recorded 25 cases during the whole of 2010.

The most frequent reported category of cases of alleged electoral malpractice recorded by police forces related to voting offences (38%), including personation at a polling station and tampering with ballot papers. This proportion is similar to 2009.  The second most frequently reported category related to campaign offences (34%), including allegations about false statements made in campaign material, or incorrect legal imprints on campaign materials.

Commenting on the findings, Electoral Commission Chair, Jenny Watson, said: “There was some high profile reporting of alleged electoral malpractice around the elections and perceptions of fraud continue to be a concern to voters. Yet these figures do not support the more pessimistic perceptions: there’s no evidence of widespread attempts to commit electoral fraud, or of election results being called into question.  It is important the public have accurate information on electoral malpractice and I would like to thank police forces across the UK for proving the data to make this analysis possible.

“It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point and no one should be complacent about the risks at the elections and referendums this year.  We continue to work closely with the police, elections staff, the Royal Mail and political parties to ensure the threat of electoral malpractice is reduced, and we’ve seen examples of excellent joint working between police forces and electoral administration teams.

“The UK Government’s commitment to introducing individual electoral registration will be another important measure to help tighten up the democratic process. The next step is for them to consider introducing the requirement for ID at polling stations in Great Britain, as is already the case in Northern Ireland.  We’ve raised this in our report after the UK Parliamentary General Election and asked Government to lead the debate.

Speaking on behalf of police forces across the United Kingdom, Assistant Chief Constable Gary Cann said: “This report emphasises how seriously the police service takes attempts to undermine the democratic process.  Where disruption to the electoral system is suspected, police forces will liaise with the returning officer to thoroughly investigate potential malpractice.

“As we approach elections in all the constituent nations of the United Kingdom in May, as well as the proposed national referendum on voting reform, ACPO and ACPOS continue to work with the Electoral Commission to support police forces in preventing and detecting electoral irregularities.  Anyone found to be acting illegally or in breach of the strict electoral code of practice will be reported and, if prosecuted, could face a significant fine or lengthy prison sentence.  We encourage anyone who suspects unlawful conduct to report the matter to the police.”

For further information please contact

Electoral Commission Press office
Office hours: 020 7271 0704
From 6pm to 9am: 07789 920414

ACPO press office (for enquiries specific to England, Wales and Northern Ireland):  020 7084 8948, press.office@acpo.pnn.police.uk, www.acpo.police.uk.

ACPOS press office (for Scotland specific enquiries): 0141 435 1240, communications@acpos.pnn.police.uk, www.acpos.police.uk.    

Notes to editors

  1. The report, “Analysis of cases of alleged electoral malpractice in 2010” is available on the Electoral Commission website.
  2. The Commission has also published tables detailing cases of alleged electoral malpratice by type and outcome, cases by police force and outcome (all cases) and cases by police and outcome during the election period.
  3. As well as analysis of data from cases reported by police across the UK, the report also contains recommendations for further action and case studies for some of the different types of cases handled by police, including in Calderdale, Manchester, Peterborough and Tower Hamlets. 
  4. Unless stated otherwise, the data in the report relating to cases in Great Britain related to an ‘election reporting period’ of 6 April to 20 August 2010.  This is to enable comparison with data in previous reports.  The figures for Northern Ireland are for the whole of 2010.
  5. The report is based on cases of alleged electoral malpractice recorded by the police, so this does not include the election court civil action  finding (to criminal standard of proof) of an illegal practice by Phil Woolas relating to parliamentary election campaigning in the constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth.
  6. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections.
  7. The Commission works in partnership with the police, electoral administrators, Royal Mail and political parties to prevent electoral malpractice, including providing information, guidance and training.  We also set performance standards for electoral administrators. More information can be found on the Commission’s website: www.electoralcommission.org.uk
  8. Assistant Chief Constable Gary Cann is speaking on this occasion on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS).  ACPOS lead for electoral fraud is ACC Mike McCormick and he can be contacted for Scotland specific enquiries