Tower Hamlets has beefed up its security operation ahead of Thursday’s general election in an attempt to reassure voters that the borough is capable of conducting free, fair and credible elections.
Revelations of “ghost voters” and claims of polling station intimidation were central to the case against disgraced mayor Lutfur Rahman who was booted out of office because of “illegal and corrupt practices”.
On the night of the 2014 vote – now voided – Tower Hamlets gained national notoriety, failing to deliver a timely result amid scenes of chaos and confusion.
The police were also accused of failing to take claims of electoral fraud seriously in the run-up to the disputed poll.
Cllr Peter Golds said at the weekend about the aftermath of the Rahman scandal: “The Met and the Electoral Commission, by their inaction and by ignoring what is so well known, are partly responsible for this state of affairs.”
The council, now under the control of external commissioners, says it has now put in place a number of measures for the general election.
• Police at every polling station on election day and a rapid response unit on standby.
• Obstruction-free, marked access to polling stations to prevent groups of people congregating and accosting voters.
• An email alert system for candidates to report concerns.
• A 24-hour turnaround in complaints investigations.
• Extra training for polling officers to challenge suspect voters.
A Tower Hamlets spokesperson said: “We are building on the excellent electoral processes that we already have in place.
“We have set up an enhanced joint training operation for the Returning Officer’s staff and police to ensure that any fraudulent activity at polling stations is immediately identified and dealt with; and strong partnership working between the council, Electoral Commission and police will ensure that any complaints during the elections are swiftly investigated and resolved.
– But the moves come against a backdrop of further allegations that postal votes were sent to an empty block of flats in Poplar.
Rene Mugenzi, the Red Flag Anti Corruption party’s Poplar and Limehouse candidate said: “I am very shocked that after the devastating judgment in the election case that fraudulent votes continue to be registered under our noses.”