Opinion Former Article

Unlock Democracy: New campaign calls for Government to tackle voting fraud

Unlock Democracy today launches the Stamp Out Voting Fraud campaign, following the Government's decision to block opposition amendments designed to tackle electoral fraud to the Political Parties and Elections Bill.

The amendments proposed the introduction of individual voter registration and for voters to prove their identity in polling stations, by showing commonly used forms of ID, such as a bankcard. They were based on the successful measures introduced in Northern Ireland in 2002 by the Government.

The Bill has attracted widespread criticism for not taking action following recent court cases on electoral fraud in Peterborough Slough and Birmingham. The judge in the Birmingham case, Richard Mawrey QC, noted, "to ignore the probability that [electoral fraud] is widespread, particularly in local elections, is a policy that even an ostrich would despise." Minister of State Michael Wills committed the Government to "work" on the problem but failed to commit to anything other than attempt to build "consensus."

Deputy Director of Unlock Democracy, Alexandra Runswick, commented:

"The Government's lax attitude on electoral fraud flies in the face of expert opinion. They recognise there is a problem, but have adopted a Through the Looking Glass, 'jam tomorrow' approach using the upcoming general election as an excuse to do nothing now.

"There are plenty of things the Government could be doing before the election. They have already acted in Northern Ireland with great success. At the very least it should publish a White Paper to spell out clearly what action needs to be taken in the rest of the UK. If they don't take action now, there is a real danger that the necessary reforms won't be ready in time for the election after next.

"It is extremely disturbing that voters who live in the 'Mother of Democracies' are so vulnerable to having their votes stolen. Government ministers should be less concerned about deciding when the next general election should be held and more about ensuring it will be fair and fraud-free."

The Stamp Out Voting Fraud campaign, which follows on from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust commissioned report, Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern has already gained support in Parliament from all parties. An Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by Dr Brian Iddon MP (Labour, Bolton South East) has received support from nearly 70 MPs.

Dr Brian Iddon MP commented:

"I am concerned that recent changes in electoral law in England and Wales has encouraged electoral fraud. My EDM highlights both the problem we face and the solution, which our Northern Irish cousins found 6 years ago, yet the Government seem hesitant to introduce here."

The Stamp Out Voting Fraud website can be found at http://www.votingfraud.org.uk.

The Government has also faced criticism from variety of watchdogs such as the Electoral Commission, The Chairman of Standards in Public Life and the Council of Europe.

ENDS

(1) An Early Day Motion are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. They are used for reasons such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view. If they reach a certain number of signatures they are debated in the House of Commons, although this is rare. The full text of EDM 2401: Electoral Fraud is as follows:

That this House notes the improved security of ballots in Northern Ireland following implementation of the Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 which has also resulted in increased levels of voter registration; further notes the successful prosecutions for electoral fraud in Slough, Peterborough and Birmingham; notes that the 2007 Council of Europe investigation into Electoral Fraud in the UK and the recent report entitled Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern, published by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd highlights how vulnerable our electoral system is to electoral fraud; and calls on the Government to improve electoral security across the rest of the UK.

See http://tinyurl.com/5jetx8 for a full list of signatories.

(2) See http://tinyurl.com/5e4wxk for a copy of Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern and other useful background documents.

(3) Unlock Democracy (incorporating Charter 88) is the UK's leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms.

(4) For more information, a quote or an interview, please contact Matthew Oliver (020 7278 4443, 07939 668050 or matthew.oliver@unlockdemocracy.org.uk).

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