NEARLY one in five alleged cases of British election fraud last year was recorded in West Yorkshire - with Bradford, Keighley and Huddersfield emerging as “high risk” areas, figures from the Electoral Commission show.
The total of incidents across the three centres is higher than London and the West Midlands combined, and includes allegations of bribery and offering “treats” to voters.
In a separate case, it has emerged that an independent candidate in the rural North Yorkshire town of Easingwold had admitted forging all nine signatures on his nomination paper.
The commission said 49 cases of alleged fraud were recorded in West Yorkshire last year, 38 of them in the Bradford and Kirklees districts, which include the heavily-populated former mill towns of Keighley and Dewsbury.
Its report said both districts had a “higher risk of allegations of electoral fraud”, and that police had “taken appropriate steps to put in place additional actions which go further than the plans we would normally expect to see”.
Across West Yorkshire, 32 allegations of bribery, falsifying statements, exerting undue influence on voters, and impersonating someone else, were recorded.
The commission found that across the country, so-called personation - claiming to be another voter - had more than doubled in the last two years, from 21 to 44 cases.
It recommended that “a proof of identity scheme should be developed and implemented for polling station voters in Great Britain.
“This would address the current absence of effective checks against personation and improve public confidence,” the report said.
It also revealed that in North Yorkshire’s Hambleton council elections in 2015, an independent candidate who forged signatures on his nomination paper, was fined £1,285 and disqualified from standing in an election for five years.
Ailsa Irvine, director of electoral administration and guidance at the Electoral Commission, said: “It is important that voters are confident that the police and prosecuting authorities take allegations of electoral fraud seriously.
“The findings from our report show that significant sentences will be imposed when electoral law is broken, and that those responsible for electoral fraud can face jail.”
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “This government is focused on protecting the right of everyone to have their say and participate in our democracy.
“That is why we recently announced new measures on the back of Sir Eric Pickles’ report to combat electoral fraud and protect anyone who is at risk of being bullied, undermined or tricked out of their vote - and their democratic right.
“Through these measures we are ensuring the integrity of our electoral system while building a clear and secure democracy that works for everyone.”