Council of Europe urges UK to take steps against voting fraud

[JURIST] The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) [official website] Tuesday released a report [PDF text; CoE press release] criticizing the United Kingdom's voting system for its vulnerability to fraud. A February 2007 fact-finding trip conducted by a PACE committee found that fraud risks are "mainly the result of the, rather arcane, system of voter registration without personal identifiers." UK voting registers currently list only the voters' names and addresses and do not include such "personal identifiers" as date of birth or signatures. The report said that UK elections are "conducted democratically" and, while not recommending a monitoring procedure, the report said:

The Monitoring Committee should, in its periodic reports on the honouring of commitments by member states, pay special attention to electoral issues in the United Kingdom and, if the vulnerabilities noted are found to undermine the overall democratic nature of future elections in Great Britain, apply to initiate a monitoring procedure with respect to the United Kingdom.
As a further precaution, the PACE report urged authorities to introduce registration comporting with the recommendations of the Electoral Commission and the Committee on Standards in Public Life [backgrounder], including cross-referencing local voting lists with a national database and an identification requirement at the polling place.

Voting fraud became a high-profile issue in 2005 after an electoral commissioner described evidence of fraud in a Birmingham City Council election as enough to "disgrace a banana republic." The PACE report said that the practice of postal voting, opened to the general voting public with the Representation of the People Act in 2000 [text], led to increased opportunity for fraud. According to the report, postal voting in general elections has risen from about 2 percent in 1997 to 12.1 percent in 2005. The Electoral Administration Act 2006 [PDF text] attempted to curb postal voting misuse, and made it a crime to false information on the registration form. BBC News has more.


 

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