Bid to banish electoral fraud

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Plans for tackling electoral fraud ahead of May’s Parliamentary and local government elections have been announced by the Electoral Commission.

After Pendle and Burnley were named in January last year as two of 16 boroughs in England where certain communities were “at risk” of such fraud, the commission made a commitment to carry out research into the issue.

And as part of the research carried out on behalf of the commission, work was undertaken in the Reedley ward which straddles the two boroughs.

There have been allegations of fraud made in recent years against the Labour Party in particular in Pendle, claims which leading figures in the party have always strenuously denied.

In its findings published on Tuesday, the commission said it would be working particularly closely with Returning Officers and local police forces in areas where there have been allegations of electoral fraud at previous elections, and where additional measures may therefore need to be put in place.

It said: “We’re confident that Returning Officers and local police forces in these areas are building on experience to put robust plans in place, and we’re supporting them by sharing information and examples of good practice to help strengthen their plans up to and beyond the May elections.

“During our review we heard some strongly held views that electoral fraud is more likely to be committed by, or in support of, candidates standing for election in areas which are largely or predominantly populated by people from the British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi communities. “This included reported first-hand experience from some campaigners and elected representatives.”

Although there have been no prosecutions for electoral fraud in Pendle, there have been three such cases in Burnley.

In 2001, a British National Party branch organiser was jailed for six months for falsely signing nomination papers, in 2004 two Liberal Democrat councillors were jailed for 18 months for fraudulent proxy vote applications and in 2010, the Lib Dem’s polling agent received a similar sentence for stealing a book of unused ballot papers from a polling station and marking a number of them in favour of the party’s candidate.