The Electoral Commission handed over evidence to the police, April 26 2012, alleging voter fraud in Tower Hamlets.
Six Tower Hamlets Labour councillors wrote a letter to the electoral watchdog warning of widespread electoral fraud taking various forms. This included postal votes being sent by people no longer living at an address and votes being collected from voters at their homes. These concerns first came to light following the Spitafields and Banglatown by-election last week.
Labour councillors Helal Abbas, Khales Uddin Ahmed, Bill Turner, Rachael Saunders, Zenith Rahman and Anwar Khan signed the letter which was leaked online April 23 2012.
A senior judge spoke out April 26 2012 about the issues surrounding voter fraud on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. Richard Mawrey QC disqualified six Birmingham councillors in 2005 in a similar case and claimed that virtually nothing had been done since then to improve the security of the voting system.
He said: “Particularly in local elections, where a small number of votes will make a considerable difference, then the opportunities for fraud are enormous, the chances of detection very small, and a relatively modest amount of fraud will guarantee you win the election.
It is made worse by the fact that local elections traditionally have a very low turnout. The lower the turnout, the less fraud you need to get your result.”
The Minister for Local Government, Grant Shaps, also spoke today on The World at One saying that he felt the police should have been called sooner. With pre-election polls suggesting that the race for London Mayor between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone will be a close battle, Mr Shapps said it was very important the result was not blighted by fraud.
”If the election outcome is marginal, then I think people will be extremely concerned it has taken so long for this issue in Tower Hamlets to be referred to the police,” he said.
A Tower Hamlets council spokesperson said: “We work to the full extent of our powers to ensure the electoral register is as accurate as possible – in fact we conducted extra visits to over 4,700 electors in the days before the register closed. As a result we removed 890 electors from the list as they had moved on. We also encourage residents to report any suspicious activity to us and to the Police – whose duty it is to investigate.”
The spokesperson distinguished the issue of voter fraud from the high rotation of residents in the borough saying Tower Hamlets has “a register that changes by up to 20 per cent a month because we have a population that is highly mobile – our borough includes a high proportion of students and restaurant workers.”
Andrew Scallan, Director of electoral administration at the Electoral Commission, said: ‘The Electoral Commission received allegations of electoral offences in Tower Hamlets on 23 April and referred it to the Metropolitan Police on 24 April. Electoral fraud is very serious and there are many offences which have a criminal element to them which is why we referred the allegations to the police.”
The Commission says it has “been calling for a system of individual electoral registration since 2003 which will be introduced before 2015. In the meantime, reported instances of electoral fraud remain low. Anyone, including politicians and members of the public, who has evidence of electoral fraud should contact the police.”