The snap general election on 8 June is only a matter of days away and, beyond the usual political discourse, there’s one important element that needs to be addressed – electoral fraud.
Crimestoppers – the charity I founded back in 1988 – has relaunched their `Don’t Stand for Electoral Fraud’ campaign, which highlights the signs of electoral fraud, such as people trying to bribe voters, stealing postal votes, voting as someone else or intimidating voters.
The campaign is run in partnership with the Electoral Commission which, I am delighted to say, is fully supportive of Crimestoppers’ efforts to shine a light on the issue of fraudulent voting practices. It also appreciates that Crimestoppers plays a vital role in enabling the public to speak up on crime whilst remaining completely anonymous.
We live in one of the oldest democracies in the world and have an international reputation for holding open, free and fair elections. However, we cannot be complacent. Last year, police forces across the UK recorded a total of 260 alleged electoral fraud allegations. This resulted in two convictions and six people being cautioned. Sadly, there will always be a few bad apples who wish to take advantage of the underlying trust in order to gain an unfair advantage.
Many people are unsure about exactly what constitutes electoral fraud. Noteworthy examples include:
- Impersonating someone else.
- Bribing voters.
- Stalling postal votes.
- Threatening or intimidating voters.
But it also covers:
- Tampering with ballot papers or postal ballot packs.
- False application to register to vote.
- Failing to mark election material with the details of the printer and party candidate responsible.
- Making false statements about candidates.
It’s important to emphasise that electoral fraud is quite rare but that, when it does occur, it threatens the integrity of our democratic process. One only has to think of the disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. Found guilty of electoral fraud, Rahman was banned from public office for five years, and ordered to pay costs of £250,000.
It’s believed that people often feel uncomfortable or unable to speak out about crime because of fear of reaction of others in their community – or, for example, because they may know the perpetrators personally. Crimestoppers is in a unique position in encouraging people to be alert to the possibility of electoral fraud, but also to give a platform for people to report their concerns anonymously. Call 0800 555 111 or use the online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org where you won’t have to give your personal details, won’t have to speak to police or go to court.
History reveals the struggle of previous generations in the battle to gain our cherished democratic rights: now, more than ever, we all have a duty to protect our democracy. I urge you all to back Crimestoppers in their campaign to stamp out electoral fraud.
For more information about the Crimestoppers campaign, visit crimestoppers-uk.org/electoral-fraud.
For more information about the Electoral Commission, go to www.electoralcommission.org.uk.