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Ministers attacked for ‘draconian’ voter ID measures

Future government plans for voter ID measures have been branded “unnecessary” and “over-bearing” after Electoral Commission figures showed that the issue was being overexaggerated.

In 2017, there were only 28 cases of ‘personification’ in polling stations, with only one resulting in a prosecution out of 45 million votes cast.

Responding to the numbers, the Electoral Reform Society has urged the government to reconsider its position and focus more heavily on other means of improving the system.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the society, said the “heavy-handed” approach was “totally unnecessary” and created a barrier to legitimate voters.

“These latest figures show just how over-bearing the government’s voter ID plans really are,” Hughes said.

“The number of alleged cases of electoral fraud involving impersonation is actually falling – and yet the government are intent on testing this draconian measure which risks excluding many legitimate voters from our democracy.

“This will create an additional and significant barrier to legitimate voters – including the millions who do not have any form of photographic ID.

“There are real unintended consequences to this – those voters who attend the polling station straight from the gym or the office, and who simply forgot to bring their ID with them will be denied their right to vote. This is heavy-handed and, as we’ve now seen, totally unnecessary.”

As part of the pilot schemes for future ID laws, people in Bromley, Gosport and Woking will be asked for one piece of identification before being allowed to vote – this is likely to take place at the local elections this year.

Those without a passport, driver’s license, utility bill or similar, will have to obtain a local election card or certificate of identification, which would require written proof from a person of good standing in the community.

In Swindon and Watford, there pilot schemes for poll cards, which are moderately restrictive compared to other ID laws. If a voter loses their poll card, they can request a replacement poll card and those who forget to bring it to the polling station must present another form of ID.

In February, prime minister Theresa May announced new measures aimed at local election candidates, with the aim of reducing the “tone of bitterness and aggression” that has landed on local politics by allowing potential candidates to apply without revealing their home address publicly.

Top image: bizoo n

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Michael Edwards   05/03/2018 at 15:52

Strict reform is long overdue, many of us involved in the election process have been aware of many incidents of potential fraud, not least double voting at the last General Election. That the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society should be criticising the measures for proving identity is itself very depressing. He should be promoting a fair and legal process, not condemning it. We must be one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t require ID at the polling station, Russia, US, India etc do, why are we frightened of it. Who are the “millions who don’t have photographic ID”. No wonder we have got into such a serious and untrustworthy state. I sincerely hope the government persists with its attempts to legitimise the outcome of our elections.

Sarah Lopez   05/03/2018 at 17:54

You need to weigh up the costs and benefits of voter ID for voting. Having to show ID excludes many already marginalised people who need more than everyone to be represented in Parliament. There are plenty of people who do not have a passport or a driving licence - think about who they are likely to be. They need enfranchisement much more than Orwellian ID checks.

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