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Tower Hamlets unveils new election procedures to prevent vote-rigging

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 January 2014

John Williams, Tower Hamlets returning officer, Tom Hawthorn, head of electoral policy for the electoral commission, Tower Hamlets borough commander chief superintendent Dave Stringer

John Williams, Tower Hamlets returning officer, Tom Hawthorn, head of electoral policy for the electoral commission, Tower Hamlets borough commander chief superintendent Dave Stringer

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Tough new election procedures are being introduced by Tower Hamlets Council to prevent a repeat of the vote-rigging scandals of the past.

The new election protocol

- Police will be based at some polling stations on election day and a mobile police team will respond as necessary.

- Police will prevent large groups of supporters congregating around polling stations and obstructing voters. There will be a limit on numbers of activists who can gather outside.

- A direct dedicated email address for agents and candidates to report concerns will be introduced from February.

- Allegations made to the Returning Officer will be investigated fully and responded to within 24 hours. If the Returning

- Officer passes an allegation to the police, they will respond within 48 hours.

- Extra training for polling officers around challenging voters they may have suspicions about.

- At the beginning of March letters will be sent to every property in the borough confirming who we currently have registered at the property.

- All late registration and absent vote applications will be verified against other council records.

- Election officers have increased the number of visits they make to check properties.

- Party campaigners will be discouraged from handling postal votes and asked not to assist with the completion of ballot papers.

Source: Tower Hamlets Council

The council unveiled its new rules last week (January 24) to increase confidence in the voting system ahead of local elections in May.

The election protocol was announced at a Town Hall meeting of the council, the Electoral Commission and the police, who pledged to ensure free and fair elections, campaigns that stay within the law, and investigations into any claims of fraud.

John Williams, returning officer for Tower Hamlets Council, said: “In the past there has been a breakdown in trust between individuals and organisations involved in the electoral process.

“The protocol addresses some of the issues raised and stands as a commitment to a more positive experience at future elections.”

Tom Hawthorn, head of electoral policy at the Electoral Commission, welcomed the protocol, but said any allegations of electoral fraud must be dealt with quickly.

He added that the commission will closely monitor the situation in the borough.

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