August 2016 saw the publication of a report by Sir Eric Pickles into electoral fraud. The report, ‘Securing the Ballot’ identifies a number of areas where the UK’s democracy is at risk of abuse such as that which went on in Tower Hamlets in 2014.
In order to prevent fraud in the future and ensure full and fair elections, Sir Eric makes no less than 50 recommendations. These include:
- A review of the procedure regarding political nominations to ensure they are not sham nominations;
- The government should consider increasing the maximum sentence for electoral fraud for postal voting, personation and registration;
- Clamping down on postal vote harvesting by political activists;
- Joined up action by government bodies for example where there are links between financial crime, illegal immigration and electoral fraud;
- Introducing use of identification at polling stations;
The report considers a range of key topics including what amounts to an offence as well as a discussion of the current approach to voting practices. It is a detailed and helpful report and one which will be of interest to everyone involved in the field.
Given the critical importance of a vibrant and healthy democracy, it is the responsibility of every citizen to ensure it is jealously safeguarded. Sir Eric makes his views clear on the responsibilities of different government bodies and highlights the importance of a joined up approach. The range of mechanisms available to ensure the integrity of elections is already wide and they are used regularly. It will be interesting going forward to see which of Sir Eric’s recommendations are adopted and what impact they will have.