IT'S now four years since the presiding officer of an election court in Birmingham said that the case of electoral fraud in front of him “would disgrace a banana republic”.

Since then, despite a new Electoral Administration Act passed in 2007, there have been several similar cases - in Birmingham, Blackburn, Coventry and Slough - involving representatives of each of Britain's three leading parties. All of these cases have been local in character but a report this week from the Electoral Commission has claimed that the whole system needs reform. Sam Younger, the chairman of the Commission, said that Britain was “trying to run 21st century elections with 19th century structures”.

The Joseph Rowntree Trust is another organisation seriously concerned about the state of Britain's electoral procedures; it has criticised in particular the present government's efforts to increase postal voting because of its openness to fraud and the undermining of public confidence. The Victorian character of the existing system is perfectly illustrated by its dependence on the “head of household” to complete the register of those living at that address. However, the Electoral Commission's proposal for a national register in which every voter's name and address, date of birth and national insurance number would be shown is certain to be resisted, as is the suggestion that photographic proof of identity should be produced at the polling stations.

Once again, Britain is caught out because of its reluctance to introduce Identity cards for its citizens. Without them, no system will ever be fraud-proof.


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