UK News: Evidence shows electoral fraud not danger to British democracy - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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UK News Evidence shows electoral fraud not danger to British democracy

22:40  22 november  2019
22:40  22 november  2019 Source:   news.sky.com

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At the launch of the Brexit Party's "contract with the British people", leader Nigel Farage made a serious charge about the integrity of British democracy.

a close up of text on a white background: Campaign Check is looking at politicians' claims over the general election period © Other Campaign Check is looking at politicians' claims over the general election period

"I'm astonished that nobody seems to want to reform the postal voting system, something that has been totally abused since it was opened up nearly 20 years ago," Mr Farage told an audience of activists.

"We've seen fraud, intimidation, several court cases, people going to prison and yet it seems to suit the two parties to keep the postal voting system as it is."

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Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Farage also called abuse of the ability to request a postal vote on demand "a major scandal". Is he correct?

Police data on the allegations of electoral fraud every year since 2010 were collected and analysed by the Electoral Commission in 2017.

They showed that even though tens of millions of people vote, the number of allegations is generally in the low hundreds.

The number of actual convictions is even lower.

Take the last general election in 2017, when police forces recorded 336 cases of alleged electoral fraud.

Only eight people were cautioned, and there was just one conviction - for someone voting as another person at a polling station

That means there were no convictions for postal voting, the issue that Nigel Farage is most concerned about.

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Since 1998, Electoral Commission records show there have been only nine convictions for postal vote fraud, a rate of less than one every two years.

Indeed, in 2017, there were only 22 allegations of postal fraud, despite the fact that 8.4 million votes were cast this way, with none ended in convictions.

Of course, it's possible cases just aren't being reported.

Nigel Farage wearing a suit and tie: Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage claimed the UK's postal voting system has been 'totally abused' © PA Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage claimed the UK's postal voting system has been 'totally abused'

The Electoral Commission admitted that police data "may not be a complete record of all activity which could involve electoral fraud offences".

Observers have warned that postal voting fraud may be a risk, given the relative openness of the UK system.

The most recent government review into electoral security found that postal voting was "considered by some to be the UK's main electoral vulnerability and to provide the 'best' opportunity for electoral fraud."

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Lutfur Rahman standing in front of a building talking on a cell phone: In 2015,  Lutfur Rahman was removed as Tower Hamlets mayor after he was found guilty of electoral fraud © Getty In 2015, Lutfur Rahman was removed as Tower Hamlets mayor after he was found guilty of electoral fraud

There have also been sporadic high-profile cases.

In 2005, six Labour councillors were found guilty of electoral fraud during council elections in two Birmingham wards.

In 2015, Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman was removed from office after he was found guilty of electoral fraud by an electoral court.

Yet on many occasions when allegations surface - like in June's Peterborough by-election, when Cambridgeshire officers investigated five allegations of electoral fraud - the police find no evidence worth pursuing.

The best available evidence shows that electoral fraud is not a danger to British democracy.

For this reason, the government review on election security concluded that abolishing postal voting on demand, as Mr Farage has proposed, "would be a disproportionate step", saying that "strengthening the system is what is required".

Campaign Check scrutinises election claims made by political parties, examining if they are true or false, and the context. Sky News is working with Full Fact - the leading independent fact-checking charity.

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