Voter ID pilots planned in five areas for 2018 elections to combat fraud

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Voters in five areas of England will be required to show ID for the first time as part of efforts to combat electoral fraud.

Pilots will take place for local elections in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough in May 2018, with photo and non-photo forms of identification being trialled in different areas to see which is the most effective and efficient.

A separate pilot looking at the security of postal votes will also be held in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets.

If the trial is successful it could be extended across the country.

We want young voters to tell us what they need to know before heading to the ballot box
If the trial is successful it could be extended across the country

The Electoral Commission recommended in 2014 that voters should be required to prove their identities before they can cast a ballot.

There were 44 instances in 2016 elections of people trying to use another individual’s vote, known as “personation”, compared with 21 in 2014.

Northern Ireland voters have had to prove their identity when voting since 1985, with photo ID made a requirement in 2003. Since then there have been no cases of personation in the province.

Constitution minister Chris Skidmore said: “The current situation of people simply pointing out their name without having to prove who they are feels out of date when considering other safeguards to protect people’s identity.

“It is harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel at a post office than it is to vote in someone’s name.

“I am very hopeful that by taking a careful, evidence-based approach in these pilots we will be able to roll out ID in polling stations at future elections.”

A report from the former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles last year said the current system was unsatisfactory and called on the Government to consider options such as requiring voters to show their driving licence, passport or utility bills.

Electors in Northern Ireland have had to  prove their identity when voting since 1985
Electors in Northern Ireland have had to prove their identity when voting since 1985

Electoral Commission chief executive Claire Bassett said: “We welcome the minister’s announcement today as a positive first step towards implementing our 2014 recommendation that an accessible, proportionate voter identification scheme should be introduced in Great Britain.

“Voters in Northern Ireland have been required to show photographic proof of identity since 2003, and we have the opportunity to learn from that experience.”

But both Labour and the Liberal Democrats voiced fears the move could harm turnout.

Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, said there was “no evidence that this particular type of fraud is widespread”.

She said: “Introducing restrictive ID requirements risks making it harder for people to vote, reducing turnout and excluding some parts of the electorate, all while doing little to stop determined fraudsters.”

Liberal Democrat Tom Brake said: “Introducing voter ID at polling booths is a solution to a problem that is almost non-existent in the UK.

“This is a completely unnecessary move that risks undermining our democracy by preventing millions of people from voting.”

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