An alleged High Wycombe election fraudster ‘harvested’ postal votes and left fingerprints on doctored ballot slips, a court has heard.

The trial of Israr Rashid, who is accused of cheating the Totteridge and Bowerdean by-election in February 2019, started today (Tuesday) at Amersham Law Courts.

The court heard how the former Labour candidate did not win the election on February 7 “fair and square”, and that he and his co-conspirators fraudulently filled in large numbers of postal votes on behalf of voters, irrespective of their voting intention.

The jury was told how several postal voting slips had Rashid’s fingerprints on, including one that was found in his car when he was arrested just days before the election took place.

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The court also heard that multiple postal vote applications were made from one property in High Wycombe – where Mr Rashid’s brother is the landlord.

Rashid, 41, of Hobart Close in High Wycombe, has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud.

Opening proceedings in court, prosecutor Guy Ladenburg accused Rashid of “cheating” the election, which he won by 310 votes.

Introducing the case to the jury, Mr Ladenburg claimed that Rashid and several co-conspirators “harvested” postal votes from constituents and fraudulently cast them in favour of the defendant.

Mr Ladenburg said: “He did not win the election fair and square. He cheated.

“He and his fellow conspirators did this in a deliberate, dishonest and organised way, by harvesting numerous postal votes and arranging them to be cast to himself.

“From messages obtained during the investigation, it is clear that the defendant’s aim was to gather as many postal votes as possible regardless of the rules or any sense of fair play.

“Instead of being the considered vote of constituents, postal votes were applied for and submitted in the course of a determined and dishonest campaign by the defendant and his co-conspirators.”

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On a postal voting slip, the voter must cast their vote, enter their date of birth and sign their name. If someone else has entered the date of birth or a signature, the ballot contains ‘false particulars’, which is an offence.

The jury heard that two days before the deadline to register for a postal vote, 520 applications were delivered to the council by hand. From these 520 applications, the council received 431 postal ballots, including 58 which were refused.

Mr Ladenburg told the jury that of the 520 late postal vote applications received by the council, six were all registered residents of one address in Adelaide Road, High Wycombe. The defendant’s brother, Anwar Rashid, was the landlord of that property.

Considering these ballot applications suspicious, the council’s electoral services team opened the postal votes wearing gloves to preserve forensic evidence, and eventually passed them on to the police, who found Rashid’s finger and palm prints on multiple postal ballots.

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It is against the council’s code of conduct for a campaigner to touch or handle anyone else’s ballot paper without direct permission from the returning officer. There is no evidence that the returning officer gave this permission, the court heard.

It is not yet clear how many ballots Rashid and his co-conspirators are accused of falsifying, but according to Whatsapp messages read out in court by Mr Ladenburg, one co-conspirator claimed to have gathered “150 postal votes”, while another mentions “500 votes.”

Rashid is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud. He denies the charge against him.

The trial continues.

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