Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 18:32 UK

Elections 'free from major fraud'

Ballot boxes
The commission has previously called for individual voter registration

Elections in England and Wales last May were "free from major incidents" of fraud, a report has concluded.

The Electoral Commission said that of 16 million votes cast in local, London mayoral and London Assembly ballots, 103 had resulted in malpractice cases.

Of these, one has so far resulted in a conviction, with nine cautions issued.

Commission chairman Jenny Watson said the findings would "go a long way to reassuring voters" but conceded there were "vulnerabilities" in the system.

The report comes as six people, all from Slough, including a former Conservative council candidate, were jailed for electoral fraud.

FROM THE PM PROGRAMME

The former candidate, Raja Mohammed Eshaq Khan, 52, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury.

He was found guilty, with five others, of creating hundreds of false names in the weeks running up to the May 2007 local election in Slough and entering them on the voter register.

Altaf Khan, 32, of Knolton Crescent, and, Arshad Raja, 53, of Broadmark Road, Slough, were sentenced to four and eighteen months respectively for conspiracy to defraud.

Mohammed Basharat Khan, 46, of Mirador Crescent, was sentenced to three years and four months for conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury. Gulnawaz Khan, 58, of Richmond Crescent, was given eight months for perjury.

Mahboob Khan, 46, of Quinbrookes, was sentenced to four and half years for fraud, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury.

The case has led to increased calls to reform the system.

False claim

The Electoral Commission has carried out a joint study of last year's elections with the Association of Chief Police Officers.

It said 13 allegations of fraud were still under investigation or awaiting a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service on whether charges should be pressed.

The one conviction, involving an election in Hampshire, was for making a false claim to vote by proxy and resulted in a £1,015 fine.

FROM THE PM PROGRAMME

Of the cases looked at, police in Greater Manchester had to deal with 12 - the most of any force.

This area, along with Essex, Merseyside, South Wales, Thames Valley and West Midlands, accounted for 60% of all reported cases.

The commission said there had been "number of changes" to improve security since high-profile cases of electoral malpractice in Birmingham, Peterborough and Bradford in 2004 and 2005, some of which involved thousands of voters.

'Reassuring'

It also welcomed the government's recent commitment to altering the way households are registered for elections, to be based on individuals rather than households.

It said this would make the system "more accurate and more secure".

Ms Watson said: "It's important that when people cast their vote, they can have confidence that the electoral system is secure.

"The data in our report - the first of its kind - should go a long way to reassuring voters that the most recent elections were free from major incidents of electoral fraud.

"High-profile cases like those in Birmingham, Peterborough and Slough influence our perception of the levels of fraud but things have changed since then.

"There have been a number of changes to make registration and voting safer, including new security checks for postal votes and new powers for electoral registration officers to review registrations that they believe are suspicious."

She added: "But there are still vulnerabilities in the system, and that is why we welcome the government's commitment to move from the current outdated system reliant on the 'head of the household' to a system of individual registration which gives us all the right to register to vote for ourselves."



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SEE ALSO
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