Electoral reform 'pressing'

Concerns growing about UK electoral system
Concerns growing about UK electoral system

"Root-and-branch" reform of Britain's electoral system is needed because of increasingly frequent instances of electoral fraud, a report says.

An evidence-based assessment of the existing system by Stuart Wilks-Heeg of the University of Liverpool concludes a "fundamental overhaul" of existing procedures is "urgently required" by all those "outside of ministerial circles".

Increased use of postal voting has made the UK system especially vulnerable, while existing administration systems are nearing "breaking point", the report warns.

It adds the "poor state" of Britain's electoral registers are also threatening the integrity of the ballot and adds large amounts of money poured into marginal constituencies appear to be having a "powerful impact on general elections".

"The possibility cannot be dismissed that root and branch reform of British electoral law and administration is required, as opposed to further consolidation of legislation and administrative procedures originating in the 19th century," the report states.

It suggests such change will not be forthcoming because, it explains, "it is difficult to refute the view. that the government appears to be 'in denial' about the challenges".

In a recent green paper the government expressed confidence in the "appropriate safeguards" used for postal voting and says its relationship with the Electoral Commission is becoming increasingly strained as a result.

There were an estimated 42 convictions for electoral fraud in 2000-07, some involving large-scale fraud. This compared to 32 between 1994 and 1999.

With public confidence in the electoral system among the lowest in Europe in 1997, the report says it is extremely unlikely high-profile cases since then will have boosted opinion.


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