Further action may be needed on voting fraud - watchdog

Polling station Actual cases of voting fraud remain small

Restrictions on postal voting and identity checks at polling stations may be needed to help crack down on fraud, the elections watchdog has said.

The Electoral Commission said the voting system was still open to abuse despite measures to prevent it.

While cases of wrongdoing were limited, it said voters remained concerned and it would monitor 15 specific areas.

It is calling for police and electoral officers to toughen up procedures ahead of elections next year.

The commission is looking at a number of options to crack down on abuse of the system in Britain.

These include adopting measures currently used in Northern Ireland, such as restricting postal voting to constituents that are physically unable to come in person and forcing people to prove their identity at polling stations.

'Trust-based'

Advance voting, curbs on campaigning activities at polling stations and restrictions on the handling of postal vote applications are also among options put forward in its consultation on reforms.

The watchdog will monitor 15 areas - Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Coventry, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall, and Woking - where there has been a history of cases of alleged fraud.

"Although the law has been changed over the years to strengthen the system - introducing checks on postal votes and making registering to vote more secure starting next summer - our research shows voters are still concerned about electoral fraud," Jenny Watson, the watchdog's chair, said.

"As we make the electoral registration system more secure, it's time to look at whether other trust-based elements of our system are sustainable. There are trade-offs between making the system accessible and making it secure.

"We need to make sure we have the right balance so that voters and political parties can participate in elections, but risks from unscrupulous campaigners are reduced."

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