UK & World News

  • 21 May 2014, 9:14

Police To Patrol More Than 100 Polling Stations

Police will be stationed at more than 100 polling stations to combat voter intimidation and fraud at the local and European elections on Thursday, Sky News has learned.

The Electoral Commission has identified 16 areas as being at "high risk" for vote-rigging and bullying. 

This includes Tower Hamlets, which in response has introduced what the council described as "the strongest measures to prevent fraud of any authority in London - and one of the most robust in the country".

The council said: "On polling day, police officers will be stationed at all 125 polling stations in the borough for the whole 15 hours of the poll (from 7am to 10pm) to deal with any alleged malpractice or public order issues."

Returning Officer John Williams said they were responding to allegations of intimidation during previous elections.

He said: "In general it has been enthusiastic campaigners gathering outside polling stations and trying to convince electors as they are coming in to vote who they should be voting for and sometimes that can be intimidating for people."

Councils are also investigating irregularities on nomination, voter registration and postal vote forms.

In Tower Hamlets they are not just screening signatures and birth dates on postal votes, but also visiting houses with high numbers of registered voters.

More than 5,000 names have been removed from the electoral register since February.

Pendle, in Lancashire, is another area identified.

Conservative council candidate Abdullah Zaid said activists have in the past coerced vulnerable voters on the doorstep.

He said: "They say, 'how do we know you're voting for us? To assure us you need to do the postal vote applications (now).'

"Then they do the applications themselves and get their signatures and send off the postal votes."

Lib Dem Councillor Tony Greaves, who has campaigned on the issue and sits in the House of Lords, said: "Fiddling postal votes has happened at every local election in Pendle since 2002 and it has taken this long for people and the police to sit up and take notice.

"It is a disgrace to British democracy and I will not stop saying so, both in Pendle and in the House of Lords, until it is stamped out."

Labour Leader Mohammad Iqbal said it can be as bad at polling stations.

"One of the reasons that people chose postal voting in Pendle is because they were fed up of certain political activists - and this is across all parties both Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives," he said.

"The activists used to stand outside polling stations and harass people and that was one of the reasons why people took up postal voting."

The at-risk areas are mostly Asian communities.

The others are: Hyndburn, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley and Oldham, Kirklees, Bradford, Calderdale, Derby, Walsall, Birmingham, Coventry, Peterborough, Slough, and Woking.

Apart from Tower Hamlets, no other council is planning to police every polling station.

Most said they would respond to situations as they arose.

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