Vote fraud crackdown in Ulster

VOTERS should be given ID "swipe cards" before being allowed to vote to stop widespread fraud at the polls in Northern Ireland, an all-party group of MPs said last night.

Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary, is expected to take action on the measures to curb fraud, but they will not be in place in time for the referendum due to be held on the peace process in May.

The warning about the possibility of polls being rigged by fraud came as Sinn Fein returned to the negotiating table and the two governments prepared to move the agenda forward today.

The threat posed by electoral fraud to the reliability of polls in Ulster was raised by the Commons select committee on Northern Ireland, which said widespread vote-stealing was unacceptable but there was a poor record of successful prosecutions.

The former Northern Ireland MP William McCrae, a member of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, yesterday claimed vote stealing may have cost him his seat in Mid-Ulster at the last election, when it was won by the Sinn Fein chief negotiator, Martin McGuiness with a majority of 1,883.

The committee's findings will cause concern within the Government about ways of combating fraud when the referendums go ahead.

The introduction of electronic swipe cards was proposed by Pat Bradley, the chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland, who said attempts to stop fraud by requiring voters to show medical cards had failed, because the cards had been forged.

He identified at least three different types of voting fraud - personation, in which a voter impersonates someone eligible to vote; multiple voting, in which the voter may be registered to vote in more than one place; and multiple registration, when the voter gives false addresses. Northern Ireland polls also have to contend with intimidation of the voters.

Absent voting - allowing postal votes - rose by 38 per cent in Mid-Ulster between the general elections in 1992 and 1997, but the numbers increased by higher percentages in other seats, including 45 per cent in Belfast West, won by Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, and 42 per cent in Belfast East, won by Peter Robinson, Mr Paisley's deputy.

The committee said: "Absent voting provides a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral system in Northern Ireland." The MPs concluded: "The present list of documents which prove identity should be replaced by a new, universally issued electoral card."

The committee, chaired by former Northern Ireland Secretary and Tory MP Peter Brooke, said: "There is sufficient evidence of organised voting- theft to indicate that the problem of electoral malpractice is serious."

As Sinn Fein returned to the talks, David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, called for the expulsion of Sinn Fein for links with IRA killings, in breach of the Mitchell principles.

Mr Adams warned Mr Trimble against trying to reach a deal with the nationalist SDLP cutting Sinn Fein out.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before