Tower Hamlets’ Labour councillors have welcomed the Electoral Commission’s proposals to help strengthen elections after Tower Hamlets was identified as one of 16 local authorities which were at greater risk of electoral fraud.
The proposals include measures to make it mandatory to show identification before receiving a ballot paper and banning campaigners from handling postal vote forms. The Commission has also set up a research project to “design better strategies to prevent electoral fraud at future elections.” If approved, none of the recommendations would come into effect until after the 2015 general election.
Tower Hamlets has previously been marred with allegations of electoral fraud including in local by-elections in recent years. Labour councillors and candidates have consistently taken steps to meet the Electoral Commission’s Code of Conduct for Campaigners which sets out minimum standards for political campaigning.
The Electoral Commission’s proposals come just over a month after Lutfur Rahman’s re-election campaign came under heavy fire for abuse of Council resources and reports from residents that his campaigners were falsely claiming to be staff of Tower Hamlets Homes when canvassing for Rahman. The allegations have sparked an official Council investigation with the police also looking into the matter.
Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam, said:
“People expect politicians and council candidates to play by the rules but sadly some have proven that we are not able to rely on that. Any steps to tighten up the voting system and clamp down on electoral fraud are particularly welcome in Tower Hamlets. Requiring people to provide some form of ID to vote seems like a sensible suggestion though the Electoral Commission should of course be careful that none of the proposed changes deter people from legitimately voting.”
Labour’s Candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:
“Whilst electoral fraud is by no means endemic, voters should definitely be aware and vigilant against those who may want to steal their votes. Issues like this need strong and honest leadership from politicians that is why I and all Labour candidates have signed up to always operate within the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct.”