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Police recorded 260 cases of alleged electoral fraud last year, reveals watchdog

Police forces across the UK recorded a total of 260 cases of alleged electoral fraud in 2016, the Electoral Commission has revealed.

The watchdog also reported that two recently concluded cases had resulted in successful prosecutions and convictions:

  • A successfully elected local government candidate was found guilty of submitting a fraudulent electoral registration application and nomination form, and was sentenced to two months in prison and disqualified from standing for election for five years.
  • A voter at the EU referendum pleaded guilty to voting twice at the same polling station, and was given a Community Payback Order of 300 hours and disqualified from standing for election for five years.

The Electoral Commission said suspects in six further cases had accepted police cautions.

Police forces are meanwhile awaiting prosecution advice in relation to a further five cases and 40 cases remain under investigation.

Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance at the Electoral Commission, said: “It is important that voters are confident that the police and prosecuting authorities take allegations of electoral fraud seriously. The findings from our report show that significant sentences will be imposed when electoral law is broken, and that those responsible for electoral fraud can face jail.”

The Electoral Commission data showed that 2016 saw an increase in the proportion of cases which related to voting offences, including personation at polling stations, in comparison to other types of electoral offence. One case of personation at a polling station offence led to a conviction, and suspects in a further three cases accepted police cautions.

The Commission has previously recommended that voters should be required to provide proof of their identity at polling stations in Great Britain, in line with practice in Northern Ireland since 2003.

The data also shows that there has been a reduction in the proportion of cases of alleged electoral fraud which relate to electoral registration offences since 2010, with a more significant reduction in 2015 and 2016.

The UK Government has indicated its intention to strengthen offences, penalties and legal challenge processes through primary legislation following a review of electoral law by the UK’s three Law Commissions.

The Commission said it supported their aim to update and clarify the law and would work with the UK Government and other partners, including the Law Commissions, to further explore the options, in order to ensure voter confidence in the system.