Electoral Commission unfit for purpose, claims think tank with links to Number 10

Policy Exchange claims electoral roll errors are up

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Indy Politics

The body which oversees elections is “not fit for purpose”, and the list of voters to be used at next May’s general election will contain at least 13m errors, a think tank has warned.

Policy Exchange, which has close links to Downing Street, said the Electoral Commission should be stripped of part of its remit because it has failed to stamp out voting fraud.

It said the number of errors on the electoral roll had risen from 7m in 2005 to between 13m and 15.5m now. The commission admits that 7.5m names are missing and 5m inaccurately included.

Policy Exchange said vote fraud is a “widespread problem”, with 37 people receiving jail sentences in 18 cases since 2001. It said the commission should focus on its job as a regulator and stop influencing policy and promoting voter engagement. A new standards unit should ensure the commission is doing its job.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, the constitutional expert who wrote the report, said: “Incidents of fraud across the country, most recently in Tower Hamlets, have called into question the effectiveness of the Electoral Commission. An error-filled voting roll is an indication of regulatory failure since a complete and accurate list of those qualified to vote is fundamental to electoral democracy.”

The report proposes setting targets for the number of errors and omissions on the register, a small council tax rebate to encourage people to register rather than a fine for not doing so, and a change in the law to make it easier to bring petitions over alleged electoral fraud.

The commission said the current switch from household to individual registration would make the system more secure. A spokeswoman said: “We’ve repeatedly made clear that no-one should underestimate the challenge of ensuring the registers are as complete and accurate as possible as this change is introduced, particularly given our last estimate was that around 7.5m people are not correctly registered at their current address.”

She added: “We take all allegations of electoral fraud extremely seriously and work closely with the police and electoral administrators before every major election to ensure that plans are in place to deal with both allegations and actual cases.

“Earlier this year, we published a review identifying 16 areas that were at higher risk of allegations of fraud, including Tower Hamlets in London, where we said that plans to tackle fraud needed to be even more robust than elsewhere. We also made a series of recommendations for how the system could be further strengthened, including the potential introduction of voter ID.”