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Tough moves by Tower Hamlets to stop bogus voters rigging May 22 elections

PUBLISHED: 17:23 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:06 20 May 2014

Scanner used to spot irregularities and stop postal vote rigging. Photo: David Mirzoeff

Scanner used to spot irregularities and stop postal vote rigging. Photo: David Mirzoeff

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Postal votes which have begun arriving for next Thursday’s council and mayor elections in London’s East End are being examined in case of fraud.

Council staff checking postal votes at Tower Hamlets. Photo: David MirzoeffCouncil staff checking postal votes at Tower Hamlets. Photo: David Mirzoeff

Tough security checks are being carried out by Tower Hamlets council with ballot papers being scanned to make sure signatures and dates of birth match the registered details on the original application forms—and rejected if they don’t match up.

“We are determined to tackle fraud robustly,” Tower Hamlets Returning Officer John Williams said. “We have been working with the police and the Electoral Commission to maintain the integrity of the elections.”

It follows vote rigging allegations going back to elections in 2006 and 2010 when hundreds of bogus registrations were uncovered.

Local Government Minister Grant Shapps called for an inquiry two years ago into Tower Hamlets Electoral Roll.

Police called at 88 suspect addresses in one investigation alone, following the 2010 election for Tower Hamlets mayor. The Town Hall had removed 141 suspect names from the register—but a flood of 5,000 new applications arrived just before the election deadline, with little time to check them out.

The East London Advertiser’s own research found that the 158,549 voters on the books had suddenly shot up by 6,000 in the six months before the 2010 elections. Another 1,000 were added on Polling Day itself.

Six addresses in Bromley-by-Bow had suspect listings—a house in Rainhill Way with 13 ‘voters’ registered, another with eight, while four flats in Limscott House had 33 listed between them.

The first time vote-rigging surfaced was in the 2006 General Election when George Galloway snatched Bethnal Green & Bow from Labour. His Respect Party complained of dodgy voters to police.

More was uncovered four years later during the 2010 council elections in May and the Mayor election that October.

Town Hall estimates put postal votes for next week’s elections at 30,000. Some 3,500 arrived yesterday and today, but counting won’t begin until May 23, the day after next Thursday’s local and EU elections.

There has been a breakdown in trust between voters and organisations involved in the electoral process, the Town Hall admits.

So tough measures being taken include police preventing large groups congregating around polling stations, challenging voters that officials have suspicions about and party campaigners being told not to handle postal votes or help voters complete ballot papers.

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