Measures to tackle Electoral fraud in Slough could trialled in 2018 Local Elections

Slough has been targeted as one of eighteen areas across the country where new measures to eradicate electoral fraud could be trialled.

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The Government, through the Cabinet Office, has responded to a report on electoral fraud produced this Summer, including a recommendation that Slough could be one of 18 local authorities where new measures are piloted.

Securing the Ballot, was produced by Sir Eric Pickles in his capacity as Government Anti-Corruption Champion – a role give to him by former PM David Cameron.  His report, published in August, identified 50 measures needed to tackle electoral fraud in the United Kingdom.

Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution, responded yesterday (27th December), with a point-by-point breakdown of how the Government intends to respond to Pickles’ recommendations.  Most significantly, the Goverment has backed his demand that voters should be required to produce a form of identification before being allowed to vote – a problem which is known to have affected Slough.

The Government says that “electoral integrity pilot schemes” could be introduced in time for the Local Government elections in England in 2018 and has listed 18 areas, including Slough, where pilot schemes could be trialled.

Three means of identifying voters are the polling booth are set to be explored.  In areas participating in trials voters could be asked to show one of: a bank card with a signature (with a signature match required);  a passport, driver’s licence, or other official photographic identification; or other photographic or non-photographic identification (e.g. bus pass).

The Government supports Sir Eric’s suggestion that pilot schemes could usefully take place in local authority areas which have either previously experienced significant cases of electoral fraud, or which are considered to be at high risk of fraudulent activity.  Slough is one of 18 local authority areas which are considered to be most at risk.

The news that Slough is a electoral fraud blackspot comes as no surprise.  The Electoral Commission first included Slough on a blacklist of 16 local authorities susceptible to fraud in January 2014.

And with the introduction of Individual voter registration in November 2015 the voter population in Slough fell by a staggering 10%.

The Electoral Commission says it will “invite applications to participate in our pilot schemes from those specified authority areas”, and it will be up to Slough Borough Council to decide whether to join in.

Slough Borough Council shut down on 23rd December for Christmas and has yet to comment on the report.

18 local authorities most susceptible to electoral fraud
● Birmingham
● Blackburn with Darwen
● Bradford
● Bristol
● Burnley
● Calderdale
● Coventry
● Derby
● Hyndburn
● Kirklees
● Luton
● Oldham
● Pendle
● Peterborough
● Slough
● Tower Hamlets
● Walsall
● Woking

As part of its response the Government also says it will also introduce measures to prevent “harvesting” of postal votes by political activists, limit the power of voting by proxy for family members to two people, and address intimidation at polling booths.  It also says it is “minded” to consider recommendations on changes to the law to clarify and strengthen the role of Returning Officers and, following the high profile case in Tower Hamlets, make it easier to challenge election results where fraud may have been involved, or to launch challenges against other impropriety in election campaigns.

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