Go to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust 2008 report Purity of Elections in the UK - Causes for Concern
This is a case-history of a cause célèbre in electoral fraud investigation. It can be found on page 34 of the above document.
Allegations of electoral fraud in Burnley during the 1990s
Following the local elections of 1994 in Burnley, an election petition was submitted, challenging the result of the local elections in the Daneshouse ward, by the defeated Labour candidate and long-standing local councillor,Rafique Malik. The petition alleged that the winning candidate, Liberal Democrat Fazal Subhan, had benefited from fraudulent proxy votes in securing a narrow three vote victory in the contest.While the petition was allowed, resulting in an election court being scheduled, permission was subsequently given for the petition to be withdrawn, amid concerns about the potential cost of the hearing,which had been predicted to reach £250,000.
In April 1996, fresh allegations of abuse of proxy voting provisions emerged, this time directed against Rafique Malik. Following complaints from Liberal Democrat representatives, it was established by council officials that two applications for proxy votes submitted by the local Labour Party related to voters actually resident in Oldham. In the wake of the discovery, it was reported that Audrey Hannah, a member of the Burnley Labour Party, had written to Labour Head Office urging that, “If there is a possibility of party members being involved in potential election fraud then it should be investigated by the party”.
However, despite investigations carried out by Lancashire Police, applications for proxy votes continued to increase, and accusations of fraud continued to surround ward elections in Daneshouse. From 1994 to 1996,proxy vote applications in Daneshouse were reported to have risen from 200 to 300.However, by the late 1990s, applications for proxy votes had exceeded 1,300, equivalent to 28 per cent of registered electors in the ward. The May 1999 elections in Daneshouse, contested between Mozaquir Ali for the Liberal Democrats and Saeed Akhtar Chaudhary for Labour, were dogged by allegations of fraud from both sides, with some 1,150 proxy votes submitted.
Burnley Borough Council and Lancashire Police have sought to respond to these allegations in a number of ways. Evidence regarding the abnormally high levels of proxy vote applications was referred to both George Howarth, MP, in his role as Chair of the Home Office Working Group on Electoral Reform, and Mike O’ Brien, the Home Office Minister with responsibility for electoral matters. The case was also reported to Lancashire Police, resulting in a nine-month investigation, subsequently referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in January 2000. While no further action was taken in relation to the 1999 allegations, allegations of fraud associatedwith proxy and postal votes continued, most notably at the 2004 local elections, culminating in the conviction of Mozaquir Ali, and fellow councillor Manzur Hussain, in November 2006.
Sources: Lancashire Evening Telegraph: 4 April 1996, 16 April 1996, 11 December 1996, 31 May 1999, 24 January 2000 and 16 February 2007.Go to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust 2008 report Purity of Elections in the UK - Causes for Concern
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