07:36 Tuesday 11th March 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[S]UE DOUGAN: Is the electoral system safe from fraud? A BBC investigation has found widespread concern about the potential for fraud around postal voting, which since 2001 has been available to anyone entered on the electoral register. Some parts of the country with a significant sized Asian population are said to be among those communities at risk. Election fraud is something we’re familiar with in Cambridgeshire. In May Peterborough was listed by the Electoral Commissioners as one of fifteen areas with a history of cases of alleged fraud. BBC reporter Allan Urry has been looking into the story. What have you found the Allan? Good morning.
ALLAN URRY: Good morning. Well Pendle for example, in East Lancashire, is a pretty typical example. The concern is that in a few wards within the borough which have communities of people of Pakistani origin, activists are calling at people’s homes and putting undue pressure on families, either to vote for a particular candidate, or likely hand over their ballot paper to be marked by someone else. This is illegal. Postal voting should take place within the privacy of our own homes, but visiting teams of party workers are said to be interfering with that. And we interviewed a Conservative activist in Pendle, Abdul Hussain, who told us what was happening.
ABDUL HUSSAIN: Some people came to the house, and they’re asking my mum to vote for them. My mum not being able to read English, she didn’t know where to put the cross. So one of the people put the cross in the box for her, and said there you go. Now you can just sign it and we’ll take it off you. It wasn’t free choice, it was more influence, and it was kind of to get rid of them. She just gave in. That’s not you voting. That’s them voting for you, voting for themselves. I was pretty cross with them actually because obviously I wasn’t at home when it did happen. And it’s your right to put that cross where you want. To come in and physically put in the cross in the box for you, that’s your right snatched away from you, isn’t it?
SUE DOUGAN: So this is illegal Allan. Why aren’t people calling the police?
ALLAN URRY: Well exactly. First of all let’s just point out that Cambridgeshire Police are one of the most active forces in the country in this area, so that they do their best to investigate abuses there. As to why victims are more reluctant to come forward, there are several factors really. There’s culture and family issues, plus people have told us they don’t feel comfortable going to the authorities, because it’s seen as speaking against your community. And also these activists we’re told, they’re very persuasive and persistent. Some people even regard them as menacing. So if you’re grasp of English is not that good, if you’re elderly or vulnerable in some other way, it’s more likely that you’ll give in to gangs of men that come knocking at your door to badger you into surrendering your vote.
SUE DOUGAN: Allan Urry, thank you very much indeed. More on this locally and nationally here on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. There’s certainly more on that tonight . It’s in File on 4 with Allan on BBC 4 at 8 o’clock.