Protecting Derby from Electoral Fraud

September 15, 2016 12:25 PM
By Cllr Ruth Skelton

Labour councillors on Derby City Council this week voted against measures to combat electoral fraud - in spite of Derby being named in government reports as being at higher risk of fraud and convictions for electoral fraud in the 2012 vote.

Sir Eric Pickles investigated electoral fraud in response to the Tower Hamlets case. Outrageous fraud and corruption was taking place not only in the sphere of elections, but in other areas of council activity too. His report makes the point that people who cheat their way to power are unlikely to hold higher moral standards when it comes to handing out public contracts or when making decisions on planning and licensing, hurting us all.

The Electoral Commission and the Organisation for Security & Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions & Human Rights (ODIHR), in agreement with national police chiefs, have recommended that voter ID is introduced at polling stations. They see the lack of an ID requirement as too trusting and open to abuse. They point to the system in Northern Ireland as a good and effective way to deal with abuse.

In Northern Ireland ID has been required for about 30 years. There are voluntary electoral ID cards for people who don't have any other form of photo ID like passports, driving licences or travel passes. The electoral ID card is free, so lack of money is not a barrier to democratic participation. And the ID shown at polling stations doesn't have to be current, just a good likeness.

Derby is one of 17 areas in the country that is considered to be at higher risk of electoral fraud. Sir Eric's report advises that piloting of ID requirements at polling stations in local elections could initially be done in these 17 areas. We could have volunteered and sent the message out that the Council is determined to drive electoral fraud out of Derby. You may draw your own conclusions from Labour voting against this measure.

It's currently harder take out a library book or collect a parcel than it is to get a ballot paper and vote. It only takes a small number of determined people to subvert the electoral process, but it can change the results and therefore hand considerable power to illegitimate "winners". We have the opportunity here to lead the way and get fairer, more honest elections and better government for Derby; we can't let Labour take this away.