Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire Constabulary have reassured residents they will be able to ‘vote with confidence’ at this week’s local elections.
The police and council are working closely to reduce the risk of electoral malpractice and to ensure voters have confidence in the run-up to the local elections, which will take place on Thursday, May 5.
Earlier this month The Peterborough Telegraph revealed one allegation of alleged electoral malpractice was being investigated by the council and police – although details of that investigation have not been revealed.
Peterborough's work to deter electoral malpractice has previously been recognised by the Electoral Commission and other national bodies.
Matt Gladstone, Returning Officer for Peterborough City Council, said: “People are entitled to use their vote in elections freely without fear or intimidation. That is why we work closely with the police for every election that we hold and go above and beyond our legal responsibility to ensure that the process is run as fairly as possible.
"Legislation dictates that we have to cross check the signature and date of birth of everyone who submits a postal vote. We go one step beyond to scrutinise the postal vote process and scrutinise bundles of postal votes returned. Postal votes returned are opened, scanned and monitored to identify unusual patterns. Any concerns are referred to the police for investigation.
"If you are concerned that you are being asked to do something which could be illegal, or you're being forced to vote in a certain way, please call our election fraud hotline on 01733 452277, Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the police on 101."
At every election, the Returning Officer and the council's electoral services team carry out a number of checks and processes which have been developed over many years, with Cambridgeshire Constabulary, to prevent, detect and prosecute electoral offences. These include cross checking the signature and date of birth of every postal vote received, closely monitoring new applications to join the electoral register and verifying information provided.
In addition, if any postal votes cause concern, such as bundles of votes being returned together or by someone other than the voter, these are scrutinised and kept separate to other postal votes. They undergo the same stringent checks outlined above and if fraud is suspected, they are passed to the police for investigation.
Polling station staff are trained on electoral legislation and risks in their polling stations and are made aware of issues such as family voting, where family members try and coerce a relative into voting in a certain way, and that photography is not permitted in polling stations.
Police will investigate any reports of corrupt activity. Allegations will be treated seriously and prosecutions will be brought if evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered. There will also be an increased police presence in the city on polling day.
Detective Inspector Tom Rowe, from Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said: "People can be rest assured that any suspected corrupt practices will be treated very seriously and action will be taken if any offences come to light. The electorate must have complete confidence in the integrity of the system and our operation will seek to ensure that's the case."