FOUR East Lancashire boroughs have been singled out for extra scrutiny in a bid to combat voting fraud.
A report by the Electoral Commission highlighted 16 areas, including Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Burnley, and Pendle, ‘where there appears to be a greater risk of cases of alleged electoral fraud being reported’.
Among the proposals in the report is a call for voters in Great Britain to produce photographic ID at polling stations.
It also recommended a ban on party political campaigners handling postal, or proxy vote forms, or completed postal ballot papers, and called for a police presence at some polling stations.
In May 2012, Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson accused members of the Asian community of falsifying postal votes.
In the same year, Lancashire Police referred a file on ‘proxy voting’ in Accrington’s Barnfield ward to the Crown Prosecution Service, while similar investigations into two other wards in Hyndburn, and two in Blackburn with Darwen, found no evidence of wrong-doing.
The report – Electoral Fraud in the UK – said every UK police force had investigated cases of suspected electoral fraud in the past three years, but that there were some areas ‘where cases are more frequently reported and therefore investigated’.
It added: “We have heard some stronglyheld views, based in particular on reported first-hand experience by some campaigners and elected representatives, that electoral fraud is more likely to be committed by, or in support of, candidates standing for election in areas which are largely, or predominately populated by some South Asian communities, specifically those with roots in parts of Pakistan, or Bangladesh.”
Welcoming the report, Mr Stephenson said: “These recommendations, made by an independent body, rightly highlight the electoral fraud problem.
“I would strongly urge the government to take notice, and look very closely at them.
“I have shown visitors from emerging democracies around Pendle and they can’t believe that anyone can just walk up to a polling station and vote without ID.”
But Colne’s Liberal Democrat councillor, Tony Greaves, called the report ‘a cop-out’.
Lord Greaves said: “Twelve years ago, few people believed me when I told them what was happening.
“Now the problem is recognised, but the political establishment will still not grasp the nettle.
“Postal voting on demand is undermining the democratic sys-tem and it ought to be stopped now.”