THE CRIMES of two corrupt Burnley councillors have prompted the introduction of new postal and proxy voting rules.

Over the coming weeks people who have previously used postal or proxy votes will be asked to provide their signature and date of birth, so it can be checked when they cast their vote in May's local elections.

It comes after two Liberal Democrat councillors, Manzur Hussain and Mozaquir Ali were jailed for 18 months in November for their part in rigging proxy votes in the May 2004 poll.

They were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the returning officer of Burnley Borough Council following a trial last year.

In Blackburn Labour councillor Mohammed Hussain, of Logwood Street, Bastwell, was jailed for three years and seven months in April 2005 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the returning officer during elections in 2002.

The government said the Electoral Administration Act 2006 had been introduced to tighten up voting security in light of these and another high-profile case in Birmingham.

Burnley Liberal Democrats said the government only had themselves to blame for the problems for introducing postal voting in 2000 without proper security.

LibDem spokesman, Coun Darren Reynolds, said: "It's a step in the right direction but it is not sufficient. I would like to have seen people having to give their signature at polling stations as well."

He said his party had warned when postal voting was introduced that it would lead to fraud.

Under the previous system witnesses were required and the procedure was complex, said Burnley MP Kitty Ussher.

She added: "Nationally the government have looked at the experience over the past few years, and the evidence shows that this will be a better system."

She urged all people currently signed up for postal or proxy votes to make sure they got registered for the new system to ensure they were not disenfranchised.

The Electoral Commission said under Electoral Administration Act 2006 councils are now required to check at least 20 per cent of the signatures on postal and proxy votes.

Electronic scanning equipment will also be used in the verification process.

A by-election will take place next month for the ward Danesholme with Stoneyholme ward vacated upon the disqualification of Mozaquir Ali, of Brougham Street, Burnley after his conviction.Manzur Hussain, of Milner Street, is still a councillor for Daneshouse and Stoneyholme, despite also serving 18 months, because he appealed against his conviction.

Nigel Evans, Ribble Valley MP, said: "I think this should be seen as a pilot project to see if it's going to be effective in stamping out fraud.

Mr Evans spent the weekend in Nis, southern Serbia, as an international observer of their elections.

He said: "In Serbia voters have to take proof of ID with them to the polling station. I thought that was far more effective than here where people just turn up and say they are who they say they are like here.

"We are far too complacent it was time we started requiring people to bring ID with them to polling stations."

A spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs, said: "Free and fair elections are our right. Democracy is not only about having the choice to vote but also having the confidence in the integrity of the system.