Watchdog cites Tower Hamlets as electoral fraud hotspot

By Rob Virtue on January 10, 2014 3:17 PM |

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Politicians have reiterated calls for a clampdown on electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets after the Electoral Commission included it in a list of shame this week.

The borough was one of 16 UK areas - and the only in the capital - cited as 'vulnerable' by the watchdog, which urged for measures to be brought in to combat the problem.

These included voters needing to show ID at polling stations and restricting campaigners' access to postal votes.

While that will be too late for the local elections in Tower Hamlets this May, it has received backing from leading politicians, both Conservative or Labour.

Conservative Leader Cllr Peter Golds, who made a detailed submission to the watchdog's enquiry into the issue, said: "Many democracies around the world require some form of identification when voting, including Northern Ireland.

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"It cannot be sensible that it is easier to vote than join a library, as is the case at the moment.

"I also welcome the proposals to restrict candidates and campaigners handling postal votes. This has been another source of allegations in Tower Hamlets, and the potential for abuse understandably concerns the public."

However, he said the recommendations do not go far enough to preventing electoral fraud in the borough and called for tougher action from the police.

"For too long we have witnessed the failure of different police forces to follow up allegations, gather evidence and prosecute offenders," he said.

"If we are to have faith that May's election results are fair, that has to change. Now is the time for the Metropolitan Police Service to commit to actively follow up election fraud allegations, and where there is evidence, prosecute."

The Labour Party has also made allegations of voter fraud in Tower Hamlets over recent years.

Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam, said: "People expect politicians and council candidates to play by the rules but sadly some have proven that we are not able to rely on that. Any steps to tighten up the voting system and clamp down on electoral fraud are particularly welcome in Tower Hamlets. "

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He was backed in those calls by the Labour candidate for this May's Tower Hamlets Mayoral election, John Biggs, who is hoping to unseat current incumbent Lutfur Rahman.

"Whilst electoral fraud is by no means endemic, voters should definitely be aware and vigilant against those who may want to steal their votes," he said.

"Issues like this need strong and honest leadership from politicians. That is why I and all Labour candidates have signed up to always operate within the Electoral Commission's code of conduct."

The commission wants its recommendations in place by 2015. Tower Hamlets has council and mayoral elections on May 22 this year.

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