Electoral Fraud

Newham takes electoral fraud very seriously

Electoral fraud in the UK and Newham is very rare but this is in part because we all take electoral fraud very seriously.  It is vital that Newham’s voters can trust the outcome of elections in Newham. This page provides information on electoral fraud and what you can do to help.

The Electoral Commission publish annual reports on electoral fraud and in 2019, the last year when there were nationwide elections,  the Police investigated 595 cases of alleged electoral fraud with four convictions and two people were cautioned. 

Electoral Commission Electoral Fraud Data

We cannot be complacent and we want to make sure everyone understands what electoral fraud is and what they can do to stop it. 

Whilst the Council has no legal powers to investigate or prosecute electoral offences, the Council is committed to proactively cooperating with the Police in investigating fraud and in any subsequent prosecution.

What is Electoral Fraud?

Whilst we may not always agree on the outcome of elections, we are rightly proud of our electoral system and the vast majority of us accept the results of our elections.  A very small number of people, however, want to cheat the system and in doing so they cheat us all.  

To combat this, the law provides for a range of criminal offences to protect each stage of the democratic process.  The key areas of risk are:

False registration of electors

Everyone must register to vote at their main address only.  There are some exceptions e.g. students away from home. 

It is an offence to;

  • Register to vote at a false address, e.g. somewhere you do not live, such as a flat you may own or rent that is not your home.
  • Register at more than one address, e.g. if you own multiple properties
  • Fail to register at your address, e.g. after you have moved, although in almost all cases encourage people to update their registration.

Postal Voting Offences (also called absent voting)

A postal vote is your vote only and no one has a right to see your vote or know how you voted.  You should complete it in private until it is sealed in the postal vote envelope and you should post it yourself.  If you are a postal voter, you have to complete an application yourself and you should receive a polling card which states you are a postal voter

There are a number of offences relating to postal voting but most importantly, it is an offence:

  • To make a false postal vote application e.g. for another voter
  • To take or steal another person’s postal vote or postal vote pack, e.g. if it arrives at a family home with more than one voter or through a communal letter box.
  • To complete another person’s postal vote or tell them how to vote

Election campaigning and voting offences

Election campaigns can be tough but they must fought fairly.  The following are the main criminal offences:

  • Bribery: campaigns (or supporters) cannot give money or offer gifts to persuade you to vote a particular way.
  • Treating, campaigns (or supporters) cannot directly or indirectly give or provide food, drink or entertainment in order to influence a voter.
  • Intimidation, campaigns (or supporters) cannot use undue influence, or intimidation of any kind, to influence the way you vote.
  • Multiple Voting, no-one should not vote, or attempt to vote, more than once in the same election. This applies to both voting in person and by post.
  • Personation, you should not vote, or attempt to vote, as some other person, under any circumstances. This is even if you know that person is away and how they would have voted. This applies to both voting in person and by post.

Expenses

Candidates and agents (and campaigns in referendums) must comply with strict rules about the amount they can spend on an election and what it can be spent on.  See also the offences relating to illegal types of expenditure above.

What can the Council do?

Unfortunately, the Council has no powers to investigate or prosecute allegations of electoral offences.  We work with our partners in the Police who would investigate most allegations of electoral fraud and will proactively assist them with their enquiries.  We also undertake regular reviews of the electoral register

The Council regularly reviews the electoral register for any unusual activity or entries and will take action to check registrations at individual properties in addition to the annual canvass.

On election day, we work closely with the Police to prevent election crime and apprehend the perpetrators

What can you do – report your concerns

If you have any concerns, you can do the following:

  • Call or email us confidentially on 020 8430 2000 or at [email protected]
  • contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
  • Contact the Police directly by email [email protected] or call 101

If you are witnessing an electoral offence, such as intimidation of voters, or have just witnessed an electoral offence whilst it was taking place, you can dial 999.