The UK scores worst in electoral integrity in Western Europe. Here’s why:
The UK performs poorly when it comes to issues of electoral integrity, lagging behind European neighbours but does particularly poorly when compared with Scandinavia – which as is the case in many fields outperforms Britain.
Here, Pippa Norris looks at the reasons why, pointing to voter registration procedures, electoral laws, media coverage, constituency boundaries, and the counting and results process:
Issues of electoral malpractice have received growing attention in the UK. The House of Commons Library briefing on Electoral offences since 2010 gives details of the reports published by the Electoral Commission and the Associations of Chief Police Officers on cases of alleged malpractice.
Questions have arisen over insecure postal ballots, proxy voting, and fraudulent practices. The Electoral Commission issued warnings of potential ‘ethnic kinship’ voting in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, a practice thought to make these areas particularly vulnerable to electoral fraud.
Sir Eric Pickles, the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion, has reviewed electoral fraud to make recommendations on what could be done to tackle the problem.Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, has claimed that electoral fraud is a ‘growing phenomena’ in British elections.
Polling Day in the UK General Election
The UK General Election on May 7th 2015 certainly generated several media reports of alleged malpractices and shortfalls.
On polling day, technical glitches were reported in Hackney and Dorset following problems with the electoral roll and distribution of cards for the incorrect polling station, blamed by officials on information technology and printing errors.
Bournemouth council apologized after 100 people were unable to cast their vote in the local elections because an administrative blunder had led to the wrong ballot papers being issued. Earlier 250,000 ballot papers went missing after a printer’s van was stolen in Eastbourne and Hastings.
The Electoral Commission investigated complaints that some overseas voters had not received their voting packs in time. The Guardian reported that Metropolitan police received 18 allegations of electoral fraud in the run up to polling day.
In Tower Hamlets, the High Court suspended the Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he was found guilty of falsifying postal votes and putting undue pressure on voters at polling stations during the 2014 local and European elections.
In Darlington, the BBC reported that the UKIP candidate’s name was missing on ballot papers.
Finally, the Telegraph reported that the Scottish Tory party leader tweeted claims of voter intimidation in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, with the allegations investigated by local police.
None of these were major issues, compared with problems common in many other countries, but they may still have undermined public confidence in the electoral process. When asked beforehand in the British Election Study, the majority of citizens expected that the election would be conducted fairly, but almost one fifth (18%) thought that it would be unfairly conducted. …”