Police have not found enough evidence of voting fraud in Tower Hamlets last year to identify suspects or bring prosecution, the Electoral Commission has said.
The allegations of fraud related to the Spitalfields and Bangletown ward by-elections on April 19 and the Weavers ward by-election on May 11 – the same day as the elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
Following these elections, there were widespread allegations, in the Evening Standard and Telegraph in particular, of substantial voting fraud, which led the Electoral Commission to order the inquiry. The Electoral Commission called in Scotland Yard to investigate.
The police say that, although there was evidence of possible bogus votes in three out of the 64 cases they investigated, it was not sufficient evidence to identify or prosecute suspects.
The Electoral Commission noted that in Tower Hamlets, the procedures to ensure that the electoral register is accurate: “exceeded current practices in the majority of other London boroughs and local authorities throughout the UK.”
However the commission ordered an immediate review of the electoral registration process in the borough and steps to improve fraud detection. It also said that the Scotland Yard should review its plans for policing the borough’s next elections in 2014.
A council spokesperson said: “Despite the allegations and media reports suggesting the contrary, evidence of actual electoral fraud is very rare. In this case the media reports of alleged electoral malpractice were not generally based on fact or sound evidence.
“Nevertheless, all of the allegations received were referred to the police for investigation. This investigation is now complete and in all but three of the 60 reported cases, no evidence was found to substantiate any allegation that an offense had been committed. In those three cases, no suspect was identified.”
The investigation involved more than 60 residences from which the postal votes were sent out, one of which was empty.
At another property it was found that the people who had cast their votes, did not live there anymore. It was decided that there was no prospect of tracking suspects or gaining sufficient evidence.
Many complaints appeared to have been sparked by people referring to out of date registers.
The investigation also followed up on media reports that a dead man and a prisoner also cast their vote. But it found that no crime had been committed and that the man had died after posting his vote.
In the report, the commission suggested that allegations might have been sparked by the diverse nature of the community, where one-third of the residents are Bangladeshi.
It suggested that there were some false claims of multiple entries on the registers. The police found that these were people with identical first and last names but different middle names.
Allegations of postal vote fraud in Tower Hamlets were also made to the commission in 2010 and previously were made by George Galloway in the House of Commons in 2007 (in relation to elections in 2006).