Mon Apr 28, 2008
LONDON (Reuters) - The electoral system is at serious
risk of large scale fraud, according to a report on
The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) report, which
comes just three days before this week's local elections
in England and Wales, said far more needs to be done
to ensure the integrity of the voting system.
Among the reforms it called for was the requirement
for all Britons to produce photographic ID before being
allowed to cast their ballot.
"It's very concerning that ministers tend to focus
on 'quick fixes' to solve declining turnout and ignore
genuine concerns about how easy it can be to cheat the
system," said the report's author Stuart Wilks-Heeg.
"There is a genuine risk of electoral integrity being
threatened by previously robust systems of electoral
administration having reached 'breaking point' as a
result of pressures imposed in recent years," the report
"Greater use of postal voting has made UK elections
far more vulnerable to fraud and resulted in several
instances of large-scale fraud".
Concern over vote-rigging and electoral fraud has grown
in recent years amid attempts by the government to encourage
more people to vote by extending the use of postal voting.
The elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, has
been calling for the system to be tightened, amid a
number of recent high-profile poll scandals.
The most notable was massive vote-rigging by members
of the Labour Party in a local election in Birmingham
in 2004 which prompted a judge, who headed a probe into
the affair, saying the fraud would "disgrace a banana
In January last year, the Committee on Standards in
Public Life said there had been nearly 350 cases of
electoral malpractice reported by the police to the
CPS since 2001.
There have been at least 42 convictions for electoral
fraud in the country between 2000-7.
The JRRT report said "piecemeal" measures to improve
choice, such as extending postal voting and introducing
electronic voting, and concern over the accuracy of
electoral registers had damaged the integrity of polls.
It said "root and branch" reforms were urgently needed
and called for:
* every voter to produce photographic ID
* a more robust system to monitor postal and proxy
* extending the use of the model used in Northern Ireland,
which requires every individual to register and to provide
details to identify themselves, which has reduced opportunities
for fraud while improving turnout.
"The evidence continues to mount up and shows how we
are desperately in need of an electoral system that
robustly befits the 21st century without belying our
19th century democratic roots," Wilks-Heeg said.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)