POLICE have launched an investigation into allegations of vote rigging during the Hyndburn Council elections earlier this month.
The claims centre around Accrington’s Central ward, which Allah Dad held for the Conservatives against two other Asian candidates on a huge turnout of nearly 60 per cent.
Several complaints have been made about the high number of proxy votes cast.
Proxy votes involve another appointed person voting on behalf of an elector who cannot get to the polling station himself, often because of ill health or being away from the area on polling day.
Of the 272 proxy votes cast throughout all of Hyndburn’s 12 wards, 141 were in Central.
The council’s Labour group leader, Graham Jones, said: "There has clearly been a case of people in Central ward defrauding the electoral system and I think the result should be declared null and void."
He said he had been told police were investigating several complaints including:
- An alleged incident when somebody claiming to be from the council visited three elderly white ladies in sheltered accommodation and offered to help them cast their votes without going to a polling station. The votes were later cast by three Asian men.
- Bullying, allegedly backed up by picture evidence, at polling stations in Hannah Street and Blackburn Road.
- A claim that 20 people who live in Church were removed from the electoral register and matched to empty properties in Swiss Street so they could vote in Central ward.
- Eighty four per cent of all postal votes were returned when only 70 per cent were expected.
- Proxy votes cast on behalf of people who have moved to Pakistan and are no longer eligible to vote.
Councillor Jones said: "It is disgusting that this may have happened here in Hyndburn. I would urge anyone else who may have been affected by this to contact the police directly and not allow anyone to intimidate them or stop justice being served."
Hyndburn Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "I understand that the police are looking into an allegation of fraud regarding proxy votes but I am wary about saying anything else that may influence or affect the case."
Councillor Dad, who retained the seat with a majority of 220, said: "Complaints have been made to the police and until they are dealt with I do not wish to discuss it."
There is no suggestion that Councillor Dad personally was guilty of any wrongdoing.
Council chief executive David Welsby said: "Whenever we receive allegations relating to improper conduct at elections we refer them to the police. It is very important that people feel they can trust the democratic system and the council welcomes any investigation which enables confidence to be maintained.
"If there is any evidence of unlawful activity then it is in everyone’s interest for this to be exposed and dealt with. Equally, if the allegations are not supported then it is helpful to put an end to the rumours."
A police spokesman said: "We have received a complaint regarding proxy voting in the Hyndburn area and we are investigating the matter in conjunction with Hyndburn Council."