Head of election watchdog fights to keep her job after allegations of vote fraud


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The Independent Online

The head of Britain's election's watchdog is facing a fight to keep her job following allegations of voting fraud set to mar today's local and mayoral elections.

i understands that members of the committee who appointed Jenny Watson as head of the Electoral Commission are so concerned about her performance that they want her to be challenged for the role.

The development comes as:

* A senior member of the judiciary told i that flaws in the postal voting system were allowing fraud to take place "on an industrial scale".

* More allegations of corruption were uncovered in Tower Hamlets as the police prepare to man polling stations in the east London borough today.

* The Electoral Commission became embroiled in a war of words with senior Government ministers over their handling of the fraud allegations. i understands that Ms Watson's job came under scrutiny at a meeting of the Speaker's Committee in March.

Her four-year term as head of the Commission expires at the end of the year and she would normally be considered for automatic reappointment.

But some members of the committee, with tacit Government support, are believed to have challenged the proposal – suggesting she must face external competition.

Last week Grant Shapps, the Local Government minister, became the first member of the Government to publicly criticise the Commission when he accused it of being "complacent" about electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets. Senior members of the judiciary are also frustrated that politicians haven't taken a more proactive stance on voter fraud by pushing for new legislation that would either place much more stringent checks on who gets a postal ballot, or get rid of the remote voting system altogether.

Andrew Scallan, director of electoral administration at the Commission, said the organisation "works closely with local authorities and the police to make sure they have robust systems and procedures in place to prevent and detect electoral fraud. But more needs to be done to strengthen the system."