An investigation has been launched into "troubling" claims that a significant number of students may have voted twice in the General Election, raising questions about Labour's apparent surge in popularity.
The Electoral Commission has received more than 1,000 emails from members of the public, as well as 38 letters from MPs, claiming that duplicate voting took place last month, although admitted it had so far found no evidence of organised abuse.
Some of the claims centre around people - mostly students - boasting on social media platforms such as Twitter that they voted twice, and City A.M. understands that university towns such as Canterbury are areas of interest in any potential probe.
The problem has arisen because of the relative ease of online registration, which meant people submitted applications without first checking whether they were already registered. The Electoral Commission currently estimates that between 30 and 70 per cent of applications were duplicates, adding "the net change in the number of electors on the registers in that 10 month period (approximately 1.4 million register entries added) suggests that a significant proportion of applications are likely to have been duplicates".
The election was reported to have drawn the highest turnout in 25 years, with Labour securing its strongest votes in areas where turnout was up five per cent or more.
The Electoral Commission added: "In the days following the election, a number of people on social media claimed that they had voted twice at the general election. We received a significant amount of correspondence referring to these posts – at the time of writing, we had received 38 letters from MPs raising constituents’ concerns, as well as 1,013 emails and 15 telephone calls from members of the public referring to media reports about these claims.
"We take these reports very seriously, though there is so far a lack of evidence of widespread abuse."
The watchdog said students could lawfully be registered to vote in more than one place, but stressed it was a criminal offence for an elector to cast more than one vote on their own behalf in a UK Parliamentary general election or at a referendum.
This offence carries a penalty of an unlimited fine in England and Wales, or a fine of up to £5,000 in Scotland.
The Electoral Commission said it was urgently looking to change the system to prevent any further instances of voter fraud.
"Tools to prevent double voting at general elections should be explored quickly," the report added.