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Polls to see voting fraud crackdown

Steps to combat electoral fraud will be taken for May's local elections, ahead of further measures to be implemented later, Electoral Commission Chair Jenny Watson pledged today.

"There is no evidence to suggest that fraud is widespread or systemic. But voters are worried about fraud and are looking for reassurance that those of us responsible for the system are making sure their vote is safe," she told town hall electoral chiefs.

Ms Watson warned that if political parties did not sign up to new measures, further legislation would be sought.

Her comments came after the Commission's recent fraud review that identified 16 council areas as particularly vulnerable to election fraud and proposed requiring voters in England, Wales and Scotland to provide ID at polling stations, as they do in Northern Ireland.

Given that some measures are still to be agreed and will take time to implement, Ms Watson urged council officers to be vigilant in the run-up to the May polls.

"Fraud is committed not by voters but by unscrupulous campaigners," she told the Association of Electoral Administrators annual conference in Blackpool.

"The sort of things we want to see in place include you taking targeted preventative measures like reviewing applications to register, based on historic analysis, including analysis of alleged fraud."

She called on town halls to work closely with the police and look into the policing of any higher-risk polling stations.

Ms Watson declared: "Talking about this prevention work can help to reassure voters - and deter potential fraudsters."

In exchanges after her speech, she promised the Commission would work with political parties to deal with campaigners where there were fraud concerns.

She insisted: "It is not appropriate for campaigners to deal with postal votes or completed applications for postal votes."

She said the Commission hoped to strengthen the code governing parties' campaigning activities and get the parties to sign up to it "but if not we will press for further legislation".

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