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Electoral Commission tackles fraud as General Election approaches

Electoral Commission tackles fraud as General Election approaches

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday January 28 2015

The Guardian and BBC News cover today’s report published by the Electoral Commission on countering voter fraud in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Last year in a report on Electoral Fraud in the UK, the Commission stated this a problem “in areas which are largely or predominately populated by some South Asian communities, specifically those with roots in parts of Pakistan or Bangladesh.”

It further stated “evidence from police data and prosecutions shows that people accused of electoral fraud and people convicted of fraud come from a range of backgrounds including white British, South Asian and other European backgrounds. It would be a mistake to suggest that electoral fraud only takes place within specific South Asian communities.”

Nonetheless, to investigate the nature, type and extent of electoral fraud in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the Commission undertook to commission research into the subject and propose workable solutions to enable voters to fully participate in British elections.

The research completed by researchers at Manchester University identified 7 reasons for voter vulnerability to fraud classifying three as “structural” problems and four as “cultural” problems.

Reasons identified from qualitative interviews conducted with 37 political activists in eight areas of large South Asian population density, of which in four electoral fraud has surfaced in the past, were:

  • language and knowledge barriers,
  • community loyalties and pressures;
  • kinship networks;
  • lack of mainstream political party engagement;
  • discrimination in candidate selection;
  • insufficiency of safeguards for voting procedures; and
  • local economic deprivation

Researchers found that reliance on “kinship networks”, so called “biraderi” networks can be both a source of support for voters but also a hindrance to autonomy as “bloc vote” promises are offered to parties by “community leaders”.

The report argues that political parties share a portion of the blame for relying on “bloc votes” instead of investing in direct relationships with voters.

The report states:

“Our analysis strongly indicates that the primary source of this influence of kinship networks in politics lies in the lack of mainstream political party activity in the areas of concentration of Pakistani and Bangladeshi voters.

“This political void is filled by the ethnic kinship networks, which perform a role of a mediator between the British electoral system and immigrant-origin communities.

“Mainstream political parties were deemed by our interviewees to be only too happy to accept this middle-man role of kinship networks.”

The report advances a number of recommendations to tackle fraud at the ballot box including guarding information about who has a postal vote more closely, stricter and transparent guidelines on postal vote handling, widening the radius around polling stations in which canvassing is prohibited, increasing ethnic diversity within parties and improving outreach programmes by political parties targeting ethnic minority women.

An alarming fact mentioned in the report is the lack of knowledge among the political activists interviewed of the changes to electoral registration last June and the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration.

The issue of diversity within political parties and the failure to introduce appropriate changes to improve BME candidate selection and support arose in the Speakers Conference Report in 2011 on Parliamentary Representation. An indication of how far proposals to raise the number of BME candidates contesting seats for the mainstream parties can be gleaned from The Guardian’s analysis on the ethnic makeup of the country and the composition of Parliament. The 27 MPs of BME background which currently sit in Parliament are significantly less than the 117 expected if the House was proportionately representative of the country.

The forthcoming election presents major challenges to improving diversity in Parliament, combatting electoral fraud and reaching out to minority voters.


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