CALLING the current system ‘Victorian’, PM Boris Johnson and his cabinet reconfirmed their commitment to taking the first step to securing democracy – by implementing voter ID at all future General and Local elections.
Following added pressure from a VoteWatch petition signed by over 17,000 members of the public calling for Boris to stick to his promise and roll-out voter ID across the nation, the Conservative Government issued the following official response:
The Government is committed to introducing measures to improve the integrity and security of each elector’s vote, whether it is cast at a polling station or remotely. Those measures are part of a much wider initiative to improve trust in the integrity of the electoral process, maintain public confidence and support inclusivity in our electoral system.
Our democracy is one based on integrity and the potential for voter fraud in our current electoral system undermines this. At present, you simply need to go to a polling station and say your name and address in order to get your ballot paper – a Victorian system based on trust and the assumption that people know everyone in their communities.
The Government maintains that showing ID before voting is a reasonable and proportionate solution to strengthen the integrity of our elections, and to deter and prevent opportunities for electoral fraud. People in all walks of life already show ID every day, for example to take out a library book, claim benefits or pick up a parcel from the post office. Proving who you are before you make a decision of huge importance at the ballot box should be no different.
We have successfully conducted 15 local authority voter ID pilots, and engaged with the electoral community and civil society groups. Both the 2018 and 2019 pilots helped to demonstrate what works best for voters and the evaluations provided the government with valuable insight to inform the implementation of this national policy.
The Government will bring forward measures that will improve the integrity and security of each elector’s vote, whether they vote at a polling station or elsewhere, and to make the process of voting at a polling station more accessible to disabled people.
As announced at the time of the Queen’s Speech on 19 December, electors will be required to show an approved form of photographic ID before casting their vote in a polling station at UK Parliamentary elections and other non-devolved elections in the UK. The list of approved photographic ID will not be limited to passports and driving licences, a broad range of commonly held photographic documents will be accepted.
Any voter who does not have one of the other acceptable forms of photographic ID, will be able to apply, free of charge, for a local elector ID from their local authority, ensuring that everyone who is eligible to vote will have the opportunity to do so. The provision of local elector ID will be by exception rather than the norm.
The measures related to postal and proxy voting will improve the integrity of voting that takes place remotely. The proposed accessibility measures include increasing the range of support available to voters with disabilities in polling stations, and allowing a wider range of people (such as carers) to assist disabled voters in polling stations.
Voter ID has applied to elections in Northern Ireland since 1985, with photo ID being required since 2003. Both the pilots and the Northern Irish experience demonstrate that the requirement to provide ID before voting does not have a negative effect on election turnout or participation. Other democracies across the world such as Canada, the Netherlands, France and Germany also require voter ID and utilize this with ease.
The Government remains committed to rolling out this effective anti-fraud measure and bringing the whole of the United Kingdom into line with Northern Ireland. Strengthening the integrity of our electoral system will give the public confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century. If people are confident about the electoral system, they are more likely to participate in it.
We will bring forward legislation enabling the implementation of voter ID and wider electoral integrity measures as stated in the Queen’s Speech.