Labour scored around 25% in local elections in 2004 and 2006, but managed 35% in the general election (GE) in 2005. A different pattern is expected in local compared to national elections, but not usually by such a large margin.
Turnout in the 2005 GE was forecast (from polling) to be heading lower than the 59.4% of 2001. Headlines were saying ‘turnout to be the lowest since 1918’ and some were wondering if it might reach 50%, but on the day it actually went up to 61.3%.
Articles had appeared in the Times and Sunday Times about large scale postal voting fraud about to happen in the General Election in 2005, but these suddenly fell silent on the matter two weeks prior to the poll, no doubt due to election reporting rules.
Allegations of postal voting fraud after the 2005 GE were reported to Parliament. See THIS – Police were looking into 25 alleged incidents of postal voting fraud in 19 Constituencies.
Many voters across Britain turned up to vote and were told that their vote had already been cast postally. These included two BBC reporters, John Humphreys and Mariela Frostrup.
The law had been modified by Labour in 2001 relaxing the previous restrictions on Postal votes. Parties were to be allowed to handle their own postal votes. This should never have been allowed. Only election officials and voters should be involved. see THIS.
In Northern Ireland postal votes are extremely hard to acquire requiring proof of identity etc so that cheating is impossible. In the rest of the UK the system is becoming a farce.
George Galloway Of Respect claimed that in the GE he was nearly defeated by Labour harvesting around 1000 fraudulent postal votes in his constituency Bethnal Green. He scraped home by around 80 votes. There were many cases reported of voters being turned away from polling stations, who claimed that their votes had been used by others postally.
The numbers from the GE 2005 are as follows – Labour polled 9.4 million. Conservatives came in with 8.5 million. Postal votes were reported in the Press as having been 6 million. The Electoral Commission however states that the actual total was in excess of 4 million, although Parties had requested 6 million application forms.
The numbers and anecdotal evidence suggest that postal voting fraud was widespread in the 2005 GE. 100,000 targeted votes delivered into marginal seats could easily have changed the result of the election. It is perfectly possible that postal voting fraud was a significant factor in Labour’s victory. The proportion of postal votes in marginal seats was suspiciously high.
Such an allegation would be impossible to prove or disprove.
Since the GE the media have been mostly silent on the topic of electoral fraud. The government have not substantially changed the law since, although they claim to have resolved the situation. They have made it a criminal offence to attempt to vote fraudulently.
This conveniently means that once an allegation of fraud has been made and is being investigated, it becomes a Police matter, and is subject to the rules of criminal enquiry and legal procedure. The Press can say little, so the topic rarely makes the headlines.
As any individual case is very hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the criminalisation of voting fraud provides little check. Not to mention that Police Forces are becoming more political than they used to be, and it is not inconceivable that prosecution and investigation could be selectively applied.
It would be far more effective to put in place controls that prevent those with criminal intent from being able to cheat, than making Police Forces run around allocating time and resources on cases that are almost impossible to substantiate. Fraud is a notoriously difficult crime to prove. The actions of a fraudster resemble those of an honest person. It is only the intent that is different.
In the 2006 local elections, the BNP claim that postal voting scams were used to bar them from winning many seats in Birmingham and London. There are also alleged substantial discrepancies between the numbers of votes at the counts and the numbers of people who were logged going into polling stations.
Richard Mawrely QC famously stated in 2005 during an electoral fraud trial that the postal voting system in Britain would ‘disgrace a banana republic’. The situation has attracted international comment from the ODIHR in Warsaw
The only substantive article I have seen on this appeared in The Guardian in August 2005.
Pressure on Britain to curb postal vote fraud
Hugh Muir Saturday August 6, 2005 The Guardian
International election monitors yesterday applied fresh pressure on the government to introduce new measures to combat postal voting fraud. Officials from the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) yesterday urged ministers to ensure that voting materials were only handled by election officials. Their comments followed controversy during the general election campaign, which was marred by accusations of postal voting fraud and claims that parties were exploiting an insecure system by “harvesting” postal vote applications. Article continues
The election monitors told ministers that they should move towards the more secure system used in Northern Ireland, where those applying for a postal vote are obliged to explain why they need one and to have their applications verified by a third party. The monitors also called for more measures to help increase voting in person. This could be done, they say, by operating polling stations “out of country” for voters who are abroad, or by using absentee voting certificates which would require the proxy voter to enter a polling station. The ODIHR also suggested that British voters might be compelled to produce identification at polling stations before being given a ballot paper. A national database of registered voters should be established to help “identify or prevent multiple registrations”. Further safeguards might involve changing the law relating to registrations to emphasise the need for individuals to register themselves. During the election it was found that heads of households were completing registration forms for individual members of their families, a practice that was exposed as open to abuse. The monitors also urged ministers to remove the serial numbers from ballot papers, arguing that these created “opportunities to breach the secrecy of the vote”.
There were also calls for minimum standards for those who administer elections, and concern about the extent to which the monitors were able to scrutinise the May election.
“The United Kingdom’s legislation is not yet in full compliance with its … commitments regarding election observation,” they said. John Turner, president of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said the monitors supported many of the concerns raised by officials during the campaign.
“It is a matter of public record that the problems with this election were the largest number that have come together at any one point in recent years,” he said. “Postal voting diverted attention away from everything else. Most people who were involved are saying fairly publicly that this must never happen again.”
The government has pledged to address concerns with an electoral administration bill, which will still allow postal voting on demand but will also introduce a new offence of fraudulently applying for a postal vote, punishable by up to two years in prison. Under the proposals, electoral registers will be more secure, with household registrations including signatures and dates of birth for all occupants.
However the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, has indicated that the government will reject the idea of a registration system similar to that in Northern Ireland, where individuals register separately, providing details such as date of birth, signature and national insurance number. The parties are also likely to continue their involvement in garnering postal vote application forms, continuing to make a clear distinction between those and completed postal vote applications. A spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs said: “We recognise that security issues are important but need to be balanced with the ability of as many people as possible to be able to register to vote.” ENDS