Crackdown on voter fraud announced for Tower Hamlets

By Rob Virtue on January 24, 2014 10:31 AM |

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Police, voting chiefs and the council have signed up to a protocol in a bid to rid Tower Hamlets of election fraud allegations.

It comes following concerns made during the 2010 campaign and in by-elections, while the borough has also been highlighted by the Electoral Commission as 'vulnerable' to vote rigging.

Details of the unique agreement ahead of this May's election were announced at the Tower Hamlets council chamber on Friday morning.

There will be a dedicated email address for agents and candidates to report concerns, while the Tower Hamlets returning officer said there will also be much closer scrutiny of voting registers.

Meanwhile, at polling stations there will be a greater police presence preventing large groups gathering.

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Borough Commander Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer said: "I want to send a very strong message we are proactively looking for people who may be seeking to take part in electoral malpractice.

"There will be a large police presence on the day to ensure people feel confident and comfortable in the process."

In a bid to minimalise intimidation, each candidate will be allowed a maximum of two activists outside the polling station.

Regarding voter fraud, the council's returning officer John Williams said there would be thorough checks carried out ahead of the upcoming election, following previous allegations of irregularities in the register.

"Letters will go to every address in Tower Hamlets once the register has been finalised in February to confirm who is registered and to make changes if it is wrong," he said.

"There will then be a number of personal checks by officers who will go to addresses if there are doubts about that property. Any addresses with six or more electors will be visited by officers twice in the run-up to the election."

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Emailed allegations - to an address due to be released next month - will go to the returning officer and be investigated fully and responded to within 24 hours, while concerns passed to the police will see the complainant receive a response within 48 hours.

Mr Williams said all major parties in Tower Hamlets have indicated their support for the protocol.

Also speaking at the launch, Tom Hawthorn of the Electoral Commission said: "There have been protocols before but none of them have gone as far as this one does."

He added the commission would 'closely monitor the situation' and would say if it thought further action needed to be taken.

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