Robert Winnett, Whitehall Correspondent
A LABOUR supporter in Birmingham has admitted receiving multiple postal votes after applying for ballots on behalf of neighbours and friends.
It is one of a number of cases that highlight the problems caused by the widespread use of postal voting for the first time in a general election.
Yesterday, when asked why nine votes were sent to his terraced home in the Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency, Mohammed Akram claimed he was helping four of his neighbours. “They can’t read or write English,” he said. “I’ll take it round and help them. I put my address there (on the application form) by mistake.”
However, two of the people whose votes have been sent to Akram’s address said they had no idea this had happened.
Zaida Khan, who speaks good English, said: “I’m not aware of that (that her vote had been redirected).” Maqsood Begum said she had planned to vote in person. She will now be barred from doing so.
Akram may have broken election rules by handling other people’s ballot papers. His case is further evidence of a failure to ensure that votes go to the right people.
The Sunday Times has collected evidence and allegations of a number of problems:
- In the Labour marginal seat of Finchley and Golders Green, London, voters have been sent two postal votes within days.
- In Glasgow, multiple postal votes have been sent to people not living at the addresses listed. It is alleged they were collected by party supporters.
- In Blackburn, the marginal constituency of Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Labour party members have been accused of collecting postal ballots from a derelict property.
- In Bethnal Green and Bow, London, people claimed they had been sent postal ballots without requesting them.
Yesterday, Liam Fox, the Conservative party co-chairman, accused Labour of trading away the integrity of the electoral system in pursuit of victory. “Their casual acceptance of the corruption of Britain’s electoral practices stands as a monument to the new Labour project,” he said.
Over the past month, political parties have rushed to sign up supporters to vote by post and more than 6.5m people have received postal ballots. However, checks are negligible and yesterday election monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe began scrutinising the voting system — the first time for a British general election.
In Birmingham, where several Labour councillors were recently convicted of electoral fraud, Ardem Yusuf, a charity worker, said: “You will have a household where the man of the house will vote for everyone.”
In Blackburn, Straw’s Liberal Democrat rival, Tony Melia, has made a formal complaint. “I’ve already had two people complaining to me about certain Labour people asking them to hand over postal votes. Postal vote rigging is happening here,” he said.
There is likely to be an unprecedented number of legal actions challenging the results of Thursday’s election with losing candidates alleging impropriety and fraud.
Yesterday one voter in Charles Clarke’s constituency in Norwich claimed that he had been sent 14 ballot papers — three each for him and his wife at their current address, two each at their previous address, and four for the previous residents of their home. Kevin Kyle, a mortgage adviser, said: “The system is a farce.”
Additional reporting: Abul Taher, Sarah Keenlyside, Chris Whyatt and Holly Watt