Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 11:46 UK

How to avoid electoral fraud

Ballot boxes
The Electoral Commission says voting fraud is "rare" in the UK

Millions of people in England and Wales are voting this Thursday in council, London mayoral and London Assembly elections. But how can they make sure they do not fall prey to electoral fraud?

It is the one time when people feel in total control.

Millions vote for the politicians who will represent them for the next few years.

The process is open and the winner always deserves their success, having made a compelling case during their campaign.

That is how we like to think of election day.

Electoral fraud - using other people's votes - whether by stealth or force, is associated in most people's minds with less rigorous systems than the UK's.

But it happens here too, sometimes.

Between 2000 and 2006 about 2,000 illegal ballots were known to have been cast, out of 123 million votes in total. This resulted in at least 42 convictions.

Integrity

In 2004, a judge quashed the results of two local council elections in Birmingham after deciding there had been systematic large-scale postal vote-rigging.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust says an increase in the variety of voting methods - especially postal ballots - is risking the integrity of the process.

It also recommends making it compulsory to take photo ID to polling stations to cut the chances of wrongdoing.

But in the meantime what can the millions of people expected to take part in Thursday's elections do to prevent becoming victims of electoral fraud?

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said cases of corruption were "very rare" in the UK, but advised "common sense" steps to lessen the risk. They are:

  • Keep polling cards and postal ballots safe at home, not allowing others to handle them at any time
  • If you arrive at the polling station and someone else has voted in your name, let the returning officer know. They will provide a "tendered ballot", allowing you to vote
  • When filling in postal ballots, do so alone, not allowing anyone else to see your choice or cast it on your behalf
  • Put the ballot into the voting envelope and seal it yourself
  • Complete and sign the accompanying voting statement and place it, along with the ballot envelope, into the larger envelope provided
  • Under no circumstances give this to someone else before it is sealed and, preferably, post it yourself
  • If anyone tries to help you against your will, or force you to give them your postal vote, contact the police
  • If you have any other queries, ring your local electoral services office, whose number is available on the About My Vote website
Since last year, people wanting to cast postal votes have had to give their signature and date of birth, both when applying for ballots and when sending them in.

The Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: "The thing to do is use common sense. The system is more secure than it's ever been."


SEE ALSO
Voter registration 'considered'
28 Apr 08 |  UK Politics
Vote fraud 'undermines democracy'
18 Mar 08 |  UK Politics

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