New questions over voting and ‘intimidating’ crowds in Tower Hamlets election


ower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman was at the centre of a fresh voting row on Friday after a report highlighted “significant challenges to the electoral process” during his resounding victory in borough elections.

Mr Rahman was elected as mayor on May 5, seven years after he was ousted from office and barred for five years having been found guilty by a special electoral court of corrupt and illegal practices during the 2014 elections.

His new Aspire Party also swept to power in Tower Hamlets this month, defeating Labour and seizing control of the council.

A report by independent electoral monitoring group Democracy Volunteers, which observed voting at 96 of the 109 ballot boxes in the borough, found that while improvements had been made since the 2014 elections, more work needed to be done. The report highlighted:

  • General concerns over large, intimidating crowds outside polling stations.
  • Extremely high levels of attempted family voting where family members are accompanied or directed by relatives on how to vote. Democracy Volunteers said they witnessed family voting at a third of polling stations though it “would have been more if it were not for the actions of the elections staff, and to some extent the police”. The report found 85 per cent of those subjected to family voting were women.
  • Concerns over personation, where a person assumes the identity of someone else to cast their vote. Observers said they witnessed half a dozen occasions when people presented screenshots of polling cards on mobiles in order to vote. They added that some voters said they didn’t know their name and address.

The report will be sent to the council and the Electoral Commission. The commission said on Friday: “We are still conducting our analysis of the polls, but at this stage we are not aware of allegations of personation relating to the elections in Tower Hamlets.”

Director of Democracy Volunteers, Dr John Ault said: “Even more action needs to be taken to combat family voting, where we regularly see a voter losing their secret ballot through the direction or collusion of another person.”

Tory councillor Peter Golds called for “a full investigation by the police and Electoral Commission”.

Aspire councillor Kabir Ahmed said: “Aspire maintained strict discipline and oversight over its campaigners and ensured that they were familiar with the legal frame-work. We are glad that this election was not beset by the issues it was claimed affected previous ones.”


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