In a judgment issued today a judge (or more correctly, a Queen’s Counsel sitting as an election commissioner) has found six Labour Councillors from the Midlands city of Birmingham guilty of election fraud. The elections will now be re-run.
The judge had already commented that the system of allowing postal (absentee) votes meant that the system was open to fraud. This cannot be changed before the elections on 5 May but may cause problems for the government who have been pushing postal votes as a way of increasing turnout.
The systen was thought to favour Labour as higher turnouts generally do. Now we seem to have further evidence just why they seem so keen on it.
The case goes back to local Council elections in 2004 and concern two wards (local areas) which were both won by Labour. In one, Bordesley Green, a pro-Kashmiri independence party objected after a box of completed ballot papers appeared at the count under disputed circumstance. In Aston, the LibDems objected after it appears a large number of postal ballots had been diverted and filled in at a “votes factory” by people including the Labour candidates.
Richard Mawrey QC described the current system as !an open invitation to fraud”. Ballot papers are sent out with two envelopes and a declaration. The voter places the completed ballot in a smaller envelope and signs a declaration that they are the person on the electoral register. This has to be witnessed. The smaller envelope and the declaration are placed in a larger envelope and sent back to the Returning Officer by post. Alternatively they can be handed in up to the end of the election.
Further information and links at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/4406575.stm