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Dead voters and cyberspace embroiled in election fraud worries

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Fresh fears were raised over election fraud today after an experiment using the Internet, the post office, and dead voters.

The dangers were unearthed by a BBC reporter, who managed to obtain seven votes in the marginal constituency of Torbay in Devon by using the names of dead people from the area.

Andrew Gilligan, a reporter on Radio 4's Today programme, started off by finding the names of the former residents in back issues of Torbay's local paper, the Herald and Express.

He then went onto the Net to check if they were still on the electoral roll. They were. After that is was a simple matter of applying for the votes to be delivered to different addresses around the country.

By today the reporter had got his hands on seven ballot papers, which is interesting considering the Liberal Democrats won Torbay in 1997 by just 12 votes.

Torbay Council told the BBCit did not check the details of anyone who applied for a postal vote due to the number of applications. It intends to change this policy in light of the investigation.

Both of the major opposition parties had criticisms of the postal vote system, which they readily passed onto the BBC.

Conservative party chairman Michael Ancram said Labour had rushed through the new law, which ended people having to give a reason for voting by post and getting applications verified by a professional.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said: "We all laughed at the Florida situation. Now the Electoral Commission will need to look at this after the event." ®

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