The electoral system in Derby means that we have elections in three out of every four years. That’s a lot of planning and a lot of election counts for a city the size of ours – but even then there have been well publicised prosecutions for those who choose to break the law in the pursuit of winning.
Sir Eric Pickles recently published a paper on the issue of electoral fraud in the country and what actions he thinks should be taken to prevent it occurring in the future. The issue of voter ID in polling stations made headline news, but contrary to reporting locally, no local authority has as yet been informed that they will be taking part in any ID pilot, and no voter will need additional ID when casting their vote in their polling station for the local by-election on Thursday 9th March.
Here Janie Berry, our Returning Officer, talks candidly about how seriously she takes the safety and integrity of the electoral process in Derby.
“Derby City Council takes the security and integrity of voting in our elections very seriously. Our plans ensure that people have not only the freedom to vote, but they can be confident that their vote is cast safely. Our plans also make sure that we detect areas of fraud.
We take many opportunities to speak to candidates and agents before elections take place. Everyone involved is able to attend and we give detailed briefings to make sure that those who are nominated and their agents are given all the information they need. It’s also crucial that we work closely with Derbyshire Constabulary – their Economic Crime Unit – to ensure that everyone is aware of the steps taken to detect fraudulent activity.”
Whilst this year is what’s known as a fallow year as we don’t have local elections, we do in fact have a by-election in Derwent ward after the recent death of local councillor Bill Wright. Planning for this started in December and is the same as it would be if we were having a full local election across the city.
Janie is already having meetings with colleagues at Derbyshire Constabulary and a candidates and agents briefing was held last week.
“I am 100% convinced that through our integrity planning all registered voters can be re-assured of a transparent process and a safe process of voting – no-one should feel disenfranchised from casting their vote, it will not be wasted. I monitor campaign material and actively investigate any concerns raised. Your vote should not be swayed by mistrust or confusion – there will be the safest platform from which to vote in Derby.
In terms of the penalties for electoral fraud, two custodial sentences were handed down in 2013 and 2016 by the Court who have shown that they look adversely on any attempt to interfere with people’s right to vote.
My message to all political parties in Derby is to campaign fairly and consider the rules. It should be a fair competition. Comply with the code of conduct and Electoral Commission Guidance and don’t seek to confuse or mislead the electorate or use inaccurate facts. We are here to help and support you, but if you choose not to follow the rules, you will be found out.”
You can find out more information about the by-election in Derwent ward on our web site.
Published: 15th February 2017