Burnley councillors guilty of vote-rigging

Two Liberal Democrat councillors have been found guilty of rigging a local election vote in Burnley two years ago.

Manzur Hussain, 58, and Mozaquir Ali, 44, took advantage of an all-postal ballot vote in June 2004 to get the former re-elected to Burnley borough council in Lancashire.

Preston crown court heard yesterday how Hussain knocked on doors around the Daneshouse and Stoneyholme ward collecting postal vote forms from electors.

Ali filled them in to say the voters would be on holiday during the election and would need a proxy vote, where someone else would vote for them. Despite the fact that most of these people were at home, he submitted 167 votes to the town hall.

Hussain, who had been a councillor in Burnley since 1995, was elected to the seat by a majority of 369 votes. He won 1,576 votes, compared to Labour’s 1,207 and the Conservatives’ 121. Labour lost overall control of the council in that election.

The two men were arrested in October 2004, after organisers of the poll raised concerns about the number of proxy votes being submitted.

Burnley was one of four regions where all-postal votes were tested in June 2004. Because everybody was voting by post, it should have been unnecessary for most people to ask for a proxy vote.

Yesterday, Hussain and Ali were found guilty of conspiring to defraud the returning officer of Burnley borough council. They were bailed and will be sentenced on November 23rd.