‘Corruptible and open to fraud’: International observers give damning verdict on UK electoral system
Britain’s electoral system is wide open to corruption and fraud, observers from developing countries have warned.
In a devastating report the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) said elements of Britain’s voting system were ‘vulnerable to abuse’, with lax rules that would shame a Third World country.
The Commonwealth sent observers to oversee a British General Election for the first time this month following repeated reports of abuse at previous polls.
‘Fair, but corruptable’: Voters queue to cast their ballot in this month’s general election, for which foreign observers were brought in to observe
Observers from countries including Bangladesh, Rwanda and Sierra Leone held talks with election officials and attended counts across the country.
In their report yesterday the observers listed a string of weaknesses in Britain’s voting system, saying it ‘contains vulnerabilities that make the system corruptible and open to fraud’.
The report said the British system relied too heavily on trust, with lax checks on identity and a sometimes ‘casual’ approach to the security of ballot papers.
It concluded: ‘Trust may have been a sufficient anchor in the past, but while trust is good, caution and deterrent controls are better.’
The report singled out for criticism the rules on postal voting, which were relaxed under the last Labour government.
Last month, police across the country launched more than 50 criminal investigations into voting fraud, mostly linked to postal voting.
The RCS report said the postal voting system was ‘particularly open to abuse’ as there were no checks on the identity of people applying for a postal ballot and few checks thereafter.
It also criticised lax rules on voter registration which make it possible for people to be registered to vote in more than one place at once.
Observers attending individual counts reported that ballot papers were ‘treated casually’, with security ‘not a priority’.
This months poll also saw chaos at a number of polling stations across the country, with hundreds of people locked out of polling stations and refused the right to vote. The RCS report said many polling stations were ‘understaffed’ and called for changes to prevent future problems.
However, observers praised the ‘calmness and culture of trust’ which characterised the British voting system, and the relatively ‘civilised’ way in which the campaign was conducted.