LONDON (Reuters) - The electoral system is at serious risk of large scale fraud, according to a report on Monday.
The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) report, which comes just three days before this week’s local elections in England and Wales, said far more needs to be done to ensure the integrity of the voting system.
Among the reforms it called for was the requirement for all Britons to produce photographic ID before being allowed to cast their ballot.
“It’s very concerning that ministers tend to focus on ‘quick fixes’ to solve declining turnout and ignore genuine concerns about how easy it can be to cheat the system,” said the report’s author Stuart Wilks-Heeg.
“There is a genuine risk of electoral integrity being threatened by previously robust systems of electoral administration having reached ‘breaking point’ as a result of pressures imposed in recent years,” the report said.
“Greater use of postal voting has made UK elections far more vulnerable to fraud and resulted in several instances of large-scale fraud”.
Concern over vote-rigging and electoral fraud has grown in recent years amid attempts by the government to encourage more people to vote by extending the use of postal voting.
The elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, has been calling for the system to be tightened, amid a number of recent high-profile poll scandals.
The most notable was massive vote-rigging by members of the Labour Party in a local election in Birmingham in 2004 which prompted a judge, who headed a probe into the affair, saying the fraud would “disgrace a banana republic”.
In January last year, the Committee on Standards in Public Life said there had been nearly 350 cases of electoral malpractice reported by the police to the CPS since 2001.
There have been at least 42 convictions for electoral fraud in the country between 2000-7.
The JRRT report said “piecemeal” measures to improve choice, such as extending postal voting and introducing electronic voting, and concern over the accuracy of electoral registers had damaged the integrity of polls.
It said “root and branch” reforms were urgently needed and called for:
* every voter to produce photographic ID
* a more robust system to monitor postal and proxy votes.
* extending the use of the model used in Northern Ireland, which requires every individual to register and to provide details to identify themselves, which has reduced opportunities for fraud while improving turnout.
“The evidence continues to mount up and shows how we are desperately in need of an electoral system that robustly befits the 21st century without belying our 19th century democratic roots,” Wilks-Heeg said.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison