The British National Party is so concerned about fraud at the general election that it intends to place its own seals on ballot boxes. The party fears its opponents will seek to sabotage its aim of winning a seat in Parliament for the first time.
So it has invoked the Ballot Act of 1872, which allows candidates to put their own seals on boxes, in an effort to avert tampering. Independent election officials always seal boxes when polls close.
BNP spokesman John Walker said his party would apply its own seals in the London seats of Barking - where leader Nick Griffin is running - and Dagenham and Rainham. The BNP hopes to do well against incumbent Labour MPs in both contests.
The party will consider adding its own ballot box seals in other seats such as Burnley. Mr Walker claimed the decision by many councils to delay general election counts until the day after voting meant there would be greater opportunity for someone to tamper with boxes.
Normally they are taken under escort straight from polling stations to be counted on the evening of the vote.
Mr Walker claimed there had been suggestions in the past that boxes had been opened and BNP votes spoiled or removed, or other parties' votes added. He said: "We know it happens. We just cannot prove it. It is a shame we have to invoke these things. But some council staff are in the pocket of the local Labour party and we suspect they would use any means to tamper with votes."
The Ballot Act of 1872 states that "the presiding officer of each station, as soon as is practicable after the close of poll, shall, in the presence of the agents of the candidates, make up (the ballot boxes) into separate packages sealed with his own seal and the seals of such agents of the candidates as desire to affix their seals".
The legislation also introduced the secret ballot for parliamentary elections to prevent voter intimidation by employers and landowners.
The right for candidates to add their own seals has survived repeated reforms of election law, currently regulated by the Representation of the People Act. Parties rarely use this right.
John Turner, chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said: "This is perfectly lawful in terms of the Representation of the People Act. But to the best of my knowledge and recollection, no other party does this."
A Labour spokesman said: "We are confident that when the general election comes the British people will clearly reject the disgusting politics of the BNP. That will be because their politics are vile and divisive not because of any bizarre paranoia about ballot boxes."