Plan for voting changes as Kirklees labelled election fraud hotspot

RETURNING OFFICER Adrian Lythgo has backed the plans.
RETURNING OFFICER Adrian Lythgo has backed the plans.
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Kirklees has been identified as a high risk area for voting fraud by the elections watchdog.

The Electoral Commission (EC) has today (Wednesday) said voters should be required to show ID to tighten up the security of the voting process – though this would be unlikely to take effect before the 2015 general election.

Three people were cautioned by police as part of an investigation into electoral fraud in the Dewsbury South area after the 2012 council elections.

Enquiries began after concerns were raised about a significant increase in the number of people registering to vote by post in Savile Town and Thornhill Lees.

The EC also recommended measures to stop postal vote fraud. Under their plan, campaigners should no longer handle postal or proxy vote application forms or completed postal ballot papers.

The EC’s report named 15 other local authority areas, including Bradford and Calderdale, as high risk. The EC added that “sustained action” must be taken by police and local election officials to clamp down on fraud.

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said: “Proven cases of electoral fraud are rare and when it is committed, the perpetrators tend to be candidates or their supporters. Voters are the victims and sustained action is needed now to prevent fraud from taking place.

“As we look to the next General Election, there needs to be a change in campaigner behaviour in order to help rebuild trust in the system. Campaigners must no longer handle postal votes, or postal vote applications under any circumstances. We should be able to achieve this through a strengthened Code of Conduct. But if we cannot, we will recommend that the law is changed.”

She said that requiring voters to produce ID would “strengthen the system and bring Great Britain into line with Northern Ireland and many countries where this is already in place.”

Kirklees Council backed the EC’s recommendations.

Adrian Lythgo, Kirklees Council returning officer, said: “Since the last local government elections in 2012 we have been revising our local Code of Conduct for political party campaigners and engaging with party leaders in Kirklees to gain their commitment and support.”

Kirklees Council has started voter education sessions and further monitoring measures. Mr Lythgo has also met senior representatives from the Electoral Commission to discuss electoral integrity matters.

He added: “We will continue to work hard to ensure that elections in Kirklees continue to be free and fair, that the postal voting system is not misused and to ensure that democracy is protected and fraud is discouraged. We will continue to closely analyse any allegations of postal vote fraud such as those made in Dewsbury South in 2012 and continue to refine the steps we take to combat any opportunities which exist within the current system to attempt electoral fraud.”