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Guarding against electoral fraud


Friday May 11, 2001

Nick Davies rightly draws attention to the growing potential for large-scale electoral fraud in Britain (Vote early, vote often, G2, May 9). The relaxed registration procedures and ease of access to pre-election day postal and other ways of voting being introduced here - far from boosting democratic legitimacy, have marred public faith in the polls because of the (often justified) perception that they have enabled fraud. The Electoral Reform Society's quest to boost turnout as an end in itself risks encouraging systemic abuse. Certainly it is now grotesquely easy to obtain multiple ballots as our recent report, Strength in Numbers, showed - see

Unlike other countries, Britain refuses to meet its OSCE obligation to permit independent election observers, either from the UK or abroad. Officialdom here frustrated, for instance, our efforts to send observers to the devolution referendum in Wales in 1997, which is widely admitted to have been marred by serious irregularities, or the London mayoral contest, in which technical hiccups marred the introduction of US-style electronic scanning machines.

Democracy must be seen to be done, and the fact that in all probability the current general election will be decided by a landslide should not encourage complacency.
Mark Almond, British Helsinki Human Rights Group,

• It is the decline of political party membership and activism which opens up the electoral system to fraud. The electoral law has always been predicated on the parties checking each other. For instance, the official marked electoral register is available to the public for six months from polling day. From this it is possible to ascertain whether recently deceased voters are marked off and, more importantly, cross check whether voters registered at more than one address have voted at each. This may sound laborious but it certainly used to be done in marginal seats, and the advent of computers should make it easier, and facilitate police investigation.
Michael Meadowcroft,



Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003,4273,4184791,00.html
The Guardian, Britain, "Guarding against electoral fraud," letters from Mark Almond, British Helsinki Human Rights Group, and Michael Meadowcroft, Leeds , Friday May 11, 2001

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Copied from,4273,4184791,00.html . If links don't work, go to the original webpage, then try there.
See also "Concern over postal vote fraud loopholes" in June 5, 2001 issue at:,4273,4198087,00.html
"Sinn Fein accused of electoral fraud",4273,4198856,00.html

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