As I blogged before, at today's full council meeting my colleague Jeremy Rowe asked a question about second home voters and how many cases the council were aware of during the recent general election.
Council Leader Alec Robertson replied and said that the council had investigated just 18 cases in the run up to the election.
That sounds to me like an implausibly low number. Either there was remarkable compliance with the law or the Council was not doing its job properly in making sure that only those eligible to vote actually did so.
The rules are clear. Only those who live permanently in an area may register to vote there. Second home owners may not do so. The only exceptions are students who genuinely live in two places for roughly equal periods of time.
What could the council have done to stop any abuse of the system? They could have checked the council tax register. Second home owners are entitled (wrongly in my view) to a discount on their council tax and are therefore registered as such. Any property which is registered as a second home should not have had any voters registered there.
Jeremy said in the meeting that he was aware of more than 18 cases in his own ward and with one Cornish seat being won by just 66 votes, it is entirely possible that a result could have been swayed by voters who should never have voted.
Cllr Robertson also claimed that it was not possible to find out who had voted more than once in the general election. The law states that, even if you are registered in more than one place, you may only vote once. It is in fact very possible by comparing the marked registers of the two registration addresses. This, however, is a very time consuming business and could realistically only happen where an individual case of illegal activity was suspected. The previous Labour Government set up a project called CORE - the Combined Online Register of Electors - which would have made the process simple. Unfortunately, as with some other anti-fraud measures, they failed to follow through with it.
Because of the implausibly low number in Alec Robertson's answer today, I have asked for an urgent meeting of the Council's Electoral Review Panel to investigate the matter more fully. If it is even remotely possible that the result of an election may be affected then Cornwall Council needs to take action quickly.