Electoral fraud: high stakes highlighted in new report

2016 saw an unprecedented number of polls with important elections held across the whole of the UK in May, a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in June, and numerous parliamentary by-elections.

We have recently published data on allegations of electoral fraud and their outcomes reported by the police during 2016 highlighting the relatively low levels of fraud and that there were no large-scale cases of proven electoral fraud.

Most importantly our report demonstrates that we can be confident that allegations of electoral fraud are taken seriously. Significant sentences will be imposed when electoral law is broken, and those responsible for electoral fraud can face jail.

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The report sets out those cases which resulted in successful prosecutions and or police cautions, including two which led to significant punishments for offenders.

  • A successfully elected local government candidate was found guilty of submitting a fraudulent electoral registration application and nomination form, and was sentenced to two months in prison and disqualified from standing for election for five years.
  • A voter at the EU referendum pleaded guilty to voting twice at the same polling station, and was given a Community Payback Order of 300 hours and disqualified from standing for election for five years.

The data shows that 2016 saw an increase in the proportion of cases which related to voting offences, including personation at polling stations, in comparison to other types of electoral offence, and at the same time a reduction in the proportion of cases which relate to electoral registration offences, with a more significant reduction in 2015 and 2016.

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We look forward to continuing to support and work with electoral administrators and police forces ahead of the polls this May and in future years, and to further address vulnerabilities in our electoral systems and the levels of public concern in this area, particularly in relation to levels of unreported fraud.

We will also work closely with the Government and other partners including the UK’s Law Commissions to identify how best to update and strengthen electoral offences, penalties and the legal challenge process, in order to ensure voter confidence in the integrity of the UK electoral system.

If you want to read the full report and see all of our other recommendations, it is available on our website.

Katy Knock
Policy Manager

Posted in Elections, Electoral Commission, Electoral Fraud, Electoral Law, Electoral Registration, EU referendum, Uncategorized, voting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Supporting those without a doorstep of their own to register to vote

By Jess Cook, Communications Officer, The Electoral Commission

Are you an organisation that works closely with those who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation? Find out how you can support them to register to vote in the upcoming local elections on 4 May.

This May, local elections will take place in Scotland, Wales and some parts of England. These elections impact the provision of a variety of local services such as housing, homelessness prevention, public transport and social services.

The key message of our voter registration campaign is, ‘The local elections are #OnYourDoorstep’. Yet we want to ensure that those without a doorstep of their own are aware that they can register to vote with no fixed address.

Not everyone has their own doorstep, but they do have the right to vote.

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Help us ensure that those who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation know that their vote matters and they have the right to vote, just as much as anyone else.

If you’re supporting someone who is homeless or living in temporary accommodation, here’s what you need to know…

Those who don’t have a permanent home can register at an address where they spend a substantial part of their time, whether during the day or night. This could be a shelter or any place where they sleep or spend a large part of their day.

This can be done by filling in a form called a ‘Declaration of local connection’. There are two forms – one for people in Scotland and one for people who are in England or Wales.

To apply to register, you can download a Register to vote form (no fixed address) from gov.uk. Alternatively, you can get the form from your local electoral registration office.

Those living in temporary accommodation may be able to register at that address, provided that they don’t have a permanent address elsewhere. If they are unsure if this is the case they should contact their local electoral registration officer.

Find the contact details for your local electoral registration office here.

The registration deadline for England and Wales is midnight, Thursday 13 April.

The registration deadline for Scotland is midnight, Monday 17 April.

You can find more information on eligibility at yourvotematters.co.uk.

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Working in partnership with homelessness organisations means we can reach more people who are homeless or living in rented or temporary accommodation with our voter registration message.

“One of the most striking parts of working on these campaigns is seeing the confidence that registering and voting can instill in people. Often those who are homeless or moving from one temporary accommodation provider to another feel their views don’t matter; that they don’t have a voice and that all power has been stripped from them.

Being told they can register to vote and that their vote matters just as much as anyone else’s can be incredibly empowering and it can be one of the first steps to building their confidence again.” – Jonny Mitchell, The Electoral Commission

Share this blog on social media now! You can find more about registering to vote with no fixed address on yourvotematters.co.uk.

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Three areas for change before for the next referendum

Adrian Fryer, Senior Policy Advisor

The aftermath of the EU Referendum has inspired debate about a number of aspects of the poll, and recently that has included a focus on the financial controls that operated during and after the poll. As the regulator in this area, the Commission can provide direction on how the regulatory framework for future referendums can stay effective, relevant and proportionate.

After the referendum, campaigners that spent more than £10,000 were required to submit a spending and donation return to us, itemising how much they spent on campaigning activities and where their funding came from. This not only provided transparency for voters so that we can all see how money was raised and spent to secure votes, but it also allowed the Commission to consider how well the regulatory framework performed.

Here are three areas of the regulatory framework that should be changed for future UK referendums:

1) Transparency on sources of donations and loans is the new normal. Pre-poll reporting of donations and loans by campaigners has now been successfully applied twice, in the periods before both the EU and Scottish independence referendums. On both occasions, voters were able to see the sources of campaigning funding before they cast their vote. At the moment these rules only sit in the specific legislation for those polls, which is why we are recommending that they are incorporated into the Political Parties, Elections, and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), the legislation that underpins the rules for UK-wide referendums.

2) Campaigners can hire staff to undertake campaigning activities without the cost being included in the spending limits. Although we knew this already, our campaign monitoring for the EU referendum noted media commentary that by the end of 2015 the two lead campaigners had already hired some 50 staff between them. There was also media comment that Vote Leave Ltd employed 46 professional staff working on their ‘ground campaign’ and that The In Campaign Ltd had recruited at least five members of the Conservative Party election team to take up posts in the company. That is why this gap in a large strand of referendum campaign spending should be closed.

3) Joint spending controls could usefully be clarified. Although there have been rules around joint spending for each referendum since 2011, the Government and Parliament could improve the Commission’s ability to provide specific advice and guidance to campaigners on these rules by clarifying what constitutes joint spending. This would also help to allay campaigners concerns at any future referendum.

These are just three of the regulatory controls on which which we have made recommendations in our report on the regulation of the EU Referendum; if you want to read the full report and see all of our other recommendations, it is available on our website.

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The new registration system has been holding up but more ambitious reforms are needed in the long-term.

Davide.Tiberti                                                                                                                                   Research & Evaluation Manager, Electoral Commission

1 December is an important date in the electoral calendar: revised registers are published at the end of the autumn canvass and a snapshot is taken of each register held by local authorities across the country. This data is then collected at a national level, to be used for official statistics, boundary reviews and as an indication of the effectiveness of activity undertaken by each Electoral Registration Officers (EROs).

Today we published our assessment of the December 2016 registers. The data shows an increase (+2.5%) in the size of the local government electorate since December 2015, mainly as a result of the high level of registrations made ahead of the May 2016 polls and EU referendum.

More positively, the number of attainers increased by 18% and, while this is a significant increment, the figure is still approximately 30% smaller than the number registered in February/March 2014, before the transition to the new registration system started.

Overall, our analysis confirms the findings from our study published in summer 2016 on the accuracy and completeness of the December 2015 registers, the ultimate indicators of the quality of the registers.

In that report, our final assessment on the transition to the new system of Individual Electoral Registration (IER), we found that accuracy increased by 4 percentage points during the transition (June 2014 to December 2015) while completeness remained broadly stable, with a decline of less than 1 percentage point.

The trend seen since then shows that many people registered to vote before the May 2016 polls and the EU referendum and, as a result, register entries increased by 3.9% between December 2015 and June 2016. During the autumn canvass, EROs undertook house-to-house activity, and as many redundant entries were removed, register size decreased by 1.5% since June 2016.

This trend confirms IER is a genuine ‘all-year round’ system and the December electorate is only a snapshot. Entries fluctuate throughout the year: they increase at election time as people are now more likely to register in the build-up to the polls than during the autumn canvass, but they decrease for the publication of the revised registers in December as house-to-house activity helps EROs to audit the accuracy of their register.

As a result the registers in use at elections are more likely to be complete, while the December ones are probably more accurate.

The high level of additions and deletions achieved in 2016 indicates that the quality of the registers has remained largely stable over the last year (91% accurate and 84% complete in December 2015) although this does mean that approximately 8 million people are not correctly registered.
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Also the system was significantly helped by the high-turnout polls that took place in May 2015 and 2016. In fact, there are signs that the system won’t be sustainable in the long term as without high-profile electoral events, accuracy and completeness could decline.

Many of the new IER provisions – mainly the two-stage canvass process – increased the cost of the autumn canvass and reduced its efficacy.

Moreover, the introduction of online registration has significantly changed the way people register, with almost 80% of applications submitted online and two thirds of registrations made outside the canvass period.

Pilots set up by the Cabinet Office, to test different approaches to canvassing, may provide useful insight into how to improve the efficiency of the autumn canvass; however, in the longer term we believe it is time to move away from a system where individuals have to re-register every time they move home and towards a more automatic system of registration. One specific aspect of this type of system could be the automatic registration of 16 and 17 year old attainers at the point National Insurance Numbers are assigned.

Our public opinions surveys show that public would support such a change: while 80% of people are satisfied with the registration system, satisfaction is lower among younger age groups who are the least likely to be registered (63% of 18-24s compared to 89% among over 65s).

More than half (56%) supports a more ‘direct’ form of registration – either automatically registering people when they reach voting age (36%) or updating an entry when someone moves home (20%).

Individual Electoral Registration has been in place for a year and made the registration process more secure with people having to provide their date of birth and National Insurance number when they apply to register to vote. Now, further work is needed to make electoral registration even more convenient and as cost-effective as possible. The Commission, working with the Cabinet office, will strive to further modernise the registration process so that it keeps pace with technological developments.

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Show us what is #OnYourDoorstep!

Next week we’re launching our #OnYourDoorstep campaign. Find out what, why and how you can get involved!

Around 8 million people in Great Britain are not correctly registered to vote. Far too many, right? Help us to change that!

Local elections are taking place across England, Scotland and Wales this May. To ensure people can vote in these elections, we’re launching #OnYourDoorstep to get people registered to vote now.

The elections impact your local area; your local park, that school down the road and the bus you get every day. This is your opportunity to have your say on who represents you, so don’t miss out!

Tuesday 7 March is #OnYourDoorstep day and we’re asking: What do you love most about your local community?

On #OnYourDoorstep day you’ll see local councils across Great Britain sharing the many different things they do. From gritting the streets on a chilly morning to keeping our parks clean, these are often behind-the-scenes activities that we’re bringing to the forefront.

Keep an eye out next Tuesday for #OnYourDoorstep and all things local government… and perhaps share something of your own!

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How can I get involved?

Wherever you call home, show us what you love most about your local community by sharing a pic, or two this coming Tuesday! Maybe it’s the community veggie garden or the basketball courts down the road… then finish it off with the hashtag – #OnYourDoorstep.

No campaign launch would be complete without a thunderclap to kick it off… so (naturally) we have one! Sign up to our thunderclap and help us start the day with a bang.

Finally, click share to pass this blog on to your family and friends!

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Don’t be left in the background – get #ReadyToVote

With just one week to go, find out how you can ensure young people across Scotland are #ReadyToVote for the Scottish council elections this May…

By Sarah Mackie, Senior Officer, Electoral Commission Scotland

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“The opportunity to vote is a privilege that many across the world are denied. It is one of the best methods to be heard and to be involved in decision-making. Voting puts us right at the forefront of politics, instead of leaving us in the background.

Registering to vote doesn’t take long. Take a few moments out of your day to make an impact on the world around you,” says Brian.

The Scottish council elections on Thursday 4 May are the first Scotland-wide council elections in which 16- and 17-year-olds can vote.

The elections will decide who represents you in your local council and who makes decisions on the provision of local services, such as education, housing and public transport.

Brian and other teens like him across Scotland want to have their say. But if they aren’t registered, they can’t vote.

You can help young people in Scotland get #ReadyToVote by running a registration event – or encouraging your networks to host an event – at your school, youth centre or college from Wednesday 1 March, which is #ReadyToVote day.

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Don’t worry, we’ve produced a toolkit which includes everything required to take part. Our toolkit includes resources to promote the event, images to use on social media, factsheets and activities to do with students.

Download your toolkit now

You can also get involved by promoting #ReadyToVote on social media. Our toolkit includes lots of graphic images you can share to get the word out there.

With just one week to go until #ReadyToVote, we have over 165 schools from 26 council areas across Scotland already signed up to take part. Sign up now!

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Help us make the invisible; visible

The elections on Thursday 4 May are just around the corner. Yet millions remain without a voice. Read this blog to find out how you can help change that…

By Ashleigh Yardy, Senior Communications Officer, Electoral Commission

partnership-resources-blog

Around eight million people in Great Britain do not have a voice in matters that affect them. Effectively, they are invisible.

Why? Because they aren’t correctly registered to vote.

Some groups of people remain less likely to be registered than others. Young people, home movers and renters, students and BME communities continue to top the invisible list. Did you know that one in three 18-24-year-olds are not registered? Or that only 27% of people who’ve lived at their place for up to a year are on the electoral roll?

If you believe eight million without their democratic right to vote is far too many, then help us change it.

The local elections on Thursday 4 May will decide who represents you in your local council and who makes decisions on the provision of local services, such as education, housing and public transport. That’s why the main message of our campaign is simple; the elections are #OnYourDoorstep.

We’ve created a range of resources to encourage participation in the local elections across Scotland, Wales and England. You can download posters, banners, infographics, a guide that explains it all and much more from our website.

Download your resources now

It’s easy. You can share a post from our Facebook page or RT us or use one of our resources to create your own message. Print a poster and stick it up in your staff kitchen – don’t forget; waiting for the kettle to boil is the perfect time to register online. Blog about it or write a post for your intranet. We can all do something to spread the word.

We work with a range of public, private and voluntary organisations to reach those who are least likely to be registered to vote. Ahead of the May 2016 elections, we worked with organisations such as Shelter Scotland, RNIB Cyrmu and The Rainbow Project to promote voter registration. If your organisation is interested in getting involved, find out more on our partnerships page.

Remember to tell your friends, your family, your neighbours, your colleagues. Ensure the people who matter to you can have their say on Thursday 4 May.

From everyone here at the Electoral Commission, thank you for your support.

Download our resources to promote participation in the May 2017 elections now.

Note: 1 in 6 people not correctly registered in Great Britain is an estimated number of people that are not registered or are incorrectly registered as a proportion of the estimated eligible voting population (calculated from ONS population estimates). You can read more in our report on The December 2015 electoral registers in Great Britain.

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