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Voter ID at polling stations not needed and possibly illegal

June 6, 2018 3:07 PM
By Bryan Lewis

In May's local elections a trial was carried out in five local authority areas in which voters had to show documents such as their passport or driving licence before receiving a ballot paper. It was claimed that this would prevent what is known as personation: a fraudster pretending to be someone else at the polling station. 340 people were stopped from voting as they had not brought suitable ID.

The government says it is about tackling fraud but this is nonsense because personation barely exists in the UK. In the 2017 general election there were 28 allegations of impersonation out of nearly 45 million votes cast and this resulted in just one prosecution. Across the five trial areas, there has not been a single allegation in the last decade.

There is no evidence of fraud to justify imposing ID and legal opinion by leading chambers in London say that ministers acted beyond the scope of the law in ordering the trials. They say that it needed a debate and vote in Parliament.

Do people want these changes? A survey of 1,500 people commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society revealed that introducing ID at the polling station is rarely on people's list of priorities. Priorities included

  • An accurate voting register (56%) No ID so no vote
  • Balanced media coverage (52%)
  • Elections free from big donors (48%)
  • Elections well managed with information widely available (46%)
  • Elections monitored and observed for security (46%

There are plenty of problems with our democracy but none of them necessitates mandatory ID. Instead, voters want to tackle our rigged party funding system, improve an out-of-date voting register and ensure fair election coverage.

Rather than adding an additional barrier to voting, the government should look at ways it can improve the process to encourage greater numbers to take part in politics - not put people off.