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No time to probe bogus voters, says East End’s returning officer

PUBLISHED: 13:19 05 May 2010 | UPDATED: 15:57 05 October 2010

THE deputy returning officer for the Bethnal Green & Bow constituency in East London, which has been hit with allegations of voting fraud, has admitted there isn’t enough time to check last minute registrations. The 11-day deadline before May 6 was not early enough to investigate suspicious registrations, the Tower Hamlets Deputy returning Officer claims

By Mike Brooke

THE deputy returning officer for the Bethnal Green & Bow constituency in East London, which has been hit with allegations of voting fraud, has admitted there isn't enough time to check last minute registrations.

The 11-day deadline before May 6 was not early enough to allow time to investigate suspicious registrations, Tower Hamlets Deputy returning Officer Isabella Freeman has told one of the parties in an exchange of emails.

"The difficulties many boroughs are facing is down to last minute registration and the close of the Register 11 days before the poll," she has told Respect's George Galloway.

"This does not allow the time to put names on the register and investigate any suspicious registrations.

"If the date for registration for postal votes was to close 10 days before the close of the register, then the Registration officer could check the names, carry out an investigation and delete some names if necessary."

But Mr Galloway, who is standing in neighbouring Poplar & Limehouse, accuses the Town Hall of failing to act in time when he told the local authority about frauds he said at the time were being carried out "on an industrial scale."

He has responded to Ms Freeman saying: "You were in a position to try to deter the crimes that have undermined elections here.

"I urged you to use the council's propaganda paper 'East End Life' to warn of the penalties of voting fraud.

But the only paper to do so was the East London Advertiser."

He has learned that checks on households of more than eight were carried out and 141 'ghost' voters were deregistered as a result, he points out.

"You would not have done this had you not feared voter fraud," Galloway adds. "Yet you failed to publicise this detection exercise which might have deterred a considerable amount of the voter fraud."

Mr Galloway has called on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner for a full criminal investigation of what he says is "a massive vote rigging operation.

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