Voters in U.K. Must Speak English to Cut Election Fraud, Study Says

(Bloomberg) -

British voters should be subject to tougher identity checks, foreign languages shouldn’t be spoken at polling stations, and action must be taken to stop postal votes from being influenced, a report on electoral fraud said.

Eric Pickles, the former communities and local government secretary, made 50 recommendations in the report, which was commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron after evidence emerged of electoral fraud in the east London district of Tower Hamlets. Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor, was stripped of his post in May 2015 after being found guilty of breaching election rules when he won office for the second time.

“Last year’s court ruling in Tower Hamlets was a wake-up call that state bodies need to do far more to stamp out corruption and restore public confidence,” Pickles said in the report. “Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to uphold the rule of law and ensure fair play.”

Pickles’s recommendations include requiring proof of ID at polling stations, taking action to stop the link between electoral and immigration fraud, and clamping down on so-called postal vote harvesting by activists. There is evidence of pressure being put on some women and younger voters to back particular candidates, particularly in the U.K.’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the report said.

Pickles, who gathered evidence over the past year from local governments, the police, academics and election experts, called for pilot projects under which voters would be asked to take identification with them to polling stations. He also called for more powers to be given to returning officers, who oversee elections, and the police in areas where voter intimidation was known to be a problem.

The report also said that languages spoken in polling stations have “recently become an issue with concerns that promoting the use of non-English languages could disguise coercion or influence within the polling station,” adding that “such an approach undermines integration and leaves the door open to fraud.”

It also linked electoral fraud and immigration fraud, saying that the powers of electoral registration officers to require proof of nationality were not systematically applied.

“The government is determined to ensure that the electoral register is as complete and accurate as possible,” Constitution Minister Chris Skidmore said in response to the report. “We will look closely at the recommendations.”