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Tower Hamlets named by Election Commission for voting fraud danger

PUBLISHED: 17:13 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 18:06 15 January 2014

Politicians from both ends of the spectrum have welcomed a report by the Election Commission exposing vote fraud in London’s East End.

It follows Tower Hamlets being named as the only London borough at risk of vote-rigging, along with 15 local authority areas up and down the country including Birmingham—scene of a notorious ballot-rigging case in 2004 which a judge said would “disgrace a banana republic”.

The commission’s study looked into concerns that some South Asian communities with roots in parts of Bangladesh and Pakistan were susceptible to electoral fraud.

It is now calling for all voters to show identity at polling stations.

But Tower Hamlets Opposition council members say it doesn’t go far enough.

Tory Group leader Peter Golds said: “There are 14 indicators of potential election fraud which are covered by law as corrupt and illegal practices—all have been seen in recent elections in Tower Hamlets.

“This report will not prevent fraud happening here in May. Now is the time for police to make sure fraud doesn’t impact the elections.”

The Electoral Commission’s report comes a month after independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s re-election campaign came under fire from Labour over allegations of using council resources.

Labour Group Leader Sirajul Islam said: “Requiring voters to provide identity seems sensible. Any steps to tighten voting and clamp down on electoral fraud are welcome.”

John Biggs, the party’s candidate for Mayor who challenges Rahman at the polls in May, said: “People should be vigilant against those who may want to steal their votes. This issue needs strong and honest leadership from politicians.”

But Mayor Rahman hit back at Labour claiming that a journalist in 2010 was beaten up attempting to question one of its candidates about why 12 adults were registered to vote at his three-bedroom home.

Tower Hamlets council has since tightened its Code of Practice. Police and council enforcement officers are being located at designated voting areas in May’s local elections and are keeping watch outside polling stations for any crowds gathering and to report any intimidation.

Mayor Rahman said: “We have robust systems in place and will come down on anyone attempting electoral fraud like a ton of bricks.”

Vote-rigging first came to light in the East End in 2005 and again in 2010, where ‘drop mail’ addresses were uncovered being used to register bogus postal ballots.

The Electoral Commission proposes restricting candidates and campaigners from handling postal votes, the issue at the centre of allegations when Respect MP George Galloway was ousted at the polls.

The number of registered voters in Tower Hamlets shot up more than 6,000 in the five months before the 2010 elections. Another 7,000 names had been added on polling day itself.

The Commission was asked to investigate seven addresses in Bethnal Green and Bow with dubious listings — two with 19 voters, four flats nearby with 33 voters between them and a council flat with 19 names registered.

The scam was described by Galloway in a letter to the borough police commander as “widespread voting fraud on an industrial scale.”

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