The government is to trial new measures designed to counter electoral fraud in areas including Tower Hamlets, where ethnic minority groups and the borough’s former Muslim mayor were found to have manipulated votes.
Chris Skidmore, the Cabinet Office minister for the constitution, said the measures will also be rolled out in Watford, Hertfordshire, where voters will be asked to present poll cards featuring barcodes, the Guardian reports.
According to the Electoral Commission, allegations of electoral fraud through impersonation more than doubled in the two years between 2014 and 2016.
The government is also investigating ways to check photo ID and limit the number of postal votes handled by campaigners, after a government report found evidence votes were “harvested” in Tower Hamlets, with “community leaders” allegedly voting for others, particularly women and children.
Some postal voters will also be selected at random in Tower Hamlets so they can be asked if they received their applications personally.
The borough’s council was placed into special measures in 2015 after the former mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was banned from public office for five years in April 2015 after facing allegations of rigging elections and serious corruption.
Accusations included spending public funds on “vanity” offices, diverting millions in grants to charities run by Bangladeshis and Somalis in return for political support, and paying local Bangladeshi TV channels and newspapers for positive coverage.
Mr. Skidmore told the Guardian: “A new initiative to stamp out postal vote fraud will be trialled across Britain this spring including postal vote pilots.
“Postal voters will be tracked, they will be selected at random and contacted to make sure they received their postal votes. We will also be looking at how we put a cap on the number of completed postal vote packs that campaigners can handle.”
According to the paper, the measures are likely to anger some Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, who claim such initiatives could make it harder for poor and minority ethnic communities to vote.
The Lib Dem MP Tom Brake has previously called requirements for photo ID “a completely unnecessary move that risks undermining our democracy by preventing millions of people from voting”.