When IT Meets Politics

May 2 2012   5:05PM GMT

Will tomorrow see the first major UK election stolen by fraud since the 19th century?

Philip Virgo Profile: Philip Virgo

Tags:
benefit
Election
Fraud
Universal Credit

During the run-up to the referendum on the Alternative Vote I blogged on the need to address fraud in the electoral register as one of the start points for the manufactured (as opposed to stolen) identities used in sysmermic benfit fraud. A few days later I blogged again on the need to give cleansing the electoral register priority over chnaging the voting system.

The chair of the Electoral Commission may think she will reassure Ministers over the integrity of voting in Tower Hamlets tomorrow but if the elections are to be stolen that will already have been achieved with the postal votes. Meanwhile attention is focussed on Tower Hamlets. What about Lambeth which swam against the trend in 2010 on the back of a truly massive postal vote? What about the other inner London boroughs?

Some of the press cover  illustrates one of the key reasons electoral fraud is so easy: the attmept to maintain a register that changes by 20% per month as it seeks to keep pace with itinerant “students” and temporary workers. That is also why plans for a national ID register were systemically flawed – somewhere around 20% of the population can best be viewed as having no “fixed abode”. Given that they also tend to drift in and out of employment, a Universal Credit based on an on-line, and supposedly accurate and up-to-date PAYE may well end up helping only that minority with predictable needs who are in permanent accommodation and dependancy, while condemning those on the move in search of work to a choice between an emergency tax code , cash in hand and benefit fraud.

There may be only one credible solution – to go back to paying benefit via a named post office, with the addition of a Post Office “card” (linked to an electronic identifier), issued after a face-to-face “encounter” between a named member of post office staff at that named office, to allow payment via another office or into a debit account linked to the card. Might that entail forgetting about privatisation and going back to a Victorian-style chain of responsibility – when the postman was a servant of the crown and the sub-postmaster signed a draconian contract with Royal Mail. Would that more or less expensive (counting the cost of fraud)?

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