Peterborough City Council has responded to allegations that postal votes in the Westminster by-election were rigged.
The Brexit Party, which finished second in the poll behind Labour, made a number of claims after the poll that postal votes had swung the result and that a large number had come from Asian households within the city.
The Daily Mail followed up with a story headlined “Jailed vote-rigger’s role in Labour’s by-election victory” naming Tariq Mahmood as a man front and centre in mobilising Labour’s Muslim vote. The article also quoted Conservative Party concerns about his role.
This week, the city council – the body responsible for running all elections – hit back in a statement emphasising how strict the rules and checks are relating to postal votes. The statement said:
“Each postal-vote application must contain the elector’s date of birth and their signature. This information is then stored on the council’s electoral database and used to verify the validity of each postal vote returned.
“In order for a postal vote to be accepted, the elector must complete the postal voting statement by adding their date of birth and signature and return the completed pack to the Acting Returning Officer. The information given on this statement is then cross-checked against the elector’s original application. If the date of birth or signature do not match the original application then the postal vote is rejected and will not be included in the final counting of votes.
“This entire matching process was viewed at the Town Hall on a large screen TV that was linked to our electoral software in real time. Appointed postal vote agents from political parties and accredited observers from the Electoral Commission observed this process in full (all parties were invited to attend – the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Brexit Party attended) and were entitled to obtain the return and rejected figures on a daily basis. All those present were entitled to challenge the validity of each returned postal vote statement, and if any were challenged, the Acting Returning Officer would record this and pass this information on to the police for investigation.”
There were 13,682 postal votes issued for the by-election and 9,898 returned, of which 400 were rejected due to either the signature or date of birth (or both) not matching records. In the 2017 Parliamentary election, there were 14,293 postal votes issued, with 11,930 returned and 379 were rejected.