Calls for the Government to abolish postal voting to combat fraud have divided the district’s MPs.
George Galloway and Philip Davies have joined a senior judge and MPs from around the country in calling for the system to be scrapped, amid concerns it is being abused to commit electoral fraud on an industrial scale.
Earlier this year, a report by the Electoral Commission identified Bradford as one of 16 local authority areas in England at greater risk of vote-rigging complaints. Kirklees and Calderdale were also listed.
Mr Galloway (Respect, Bradford West) said the system had been tightened up, but he remained concerned it was “wide open to potential abuse”.
He said: “The ballot is meant to be sacrosanct. It’s meant to be secret, but people in this system abuse it.”
Mr Galloway yesterday tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the Government to axe postal voting.
It made reference to concerns raised by Judge Richard Mawrey, who tries cases of electoral fraud. Mr Mawrey said postal voting was open to fraud on a scale which made “election rigging a possibility and indeed in some areas a probability”.
Shipley MP Philip Davies (Con) said: “We have seen so much abuse of postal voting, including here in Bradford, and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked.”
But Bradford East MP David Ward (Lib Dem) disagreed that postal voting should be axed.
He said: “Like all voting methods, postal votes are not 100 per cent free from fraud or interference from other parties, but the ability for people to vote via post allows people to fulfil their democratic duty in as easy a way as possible.”
MP Kris Hopkins (Con, Keighley) said the key to combating electoral fraud was prosecuting those responsible.
He said: “There have been a number of high profile instances of abuse, including in Bradford district, which amount to a corruption of the democratic process. I wholeheartedly support the police’s efforts to bring prosecutions against those involved.”
Tony Reeves, chief executive of Bradford Council and returning officer for elections, said the call to ban postal voting was a debate for Parliament.
MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab, Bradford South) was unavailable for comment.