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One step closer to voter IDs at elections

Chloe Smith MP, Minister for the Constitution, evaluates the outcomes of the voter ID pilots conducted at the last local elections.

We are one step closer to strengthening the integrity of our electoral system through requiring electors to confirm their identity before they vote, building on the government’s commitment to safeguard against fraud.

A new evaluation carried out by the Cabinet Office of voter ID pilots conducted in five local authorities at May’s local elections has found they were smoothly delivered, with satisfaction amongst electoral administration and public confidence strengthened locally.

Evidence from the pilots delivered successfully in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking show that the vast majority of voters who turned up to vote without ID returned later with ID without issue. This builds on earlier data released by the local authorities themselves that indicated that those who chose not to return with identification represented just 0.14% of votes cast. 

Today’s published evaluation confirms that electoral administrators were able to deliver voter ID in conjunction with all the business as usual activities for a successful election. When surveyed, polling station staff overwhelmingly judged that they had been able to successfully deliver the ID requirements in their polling stations, with 99% satisfaction rates amongst administrators in four of the five local authorities – Bromley, Swindon, Woking and Gosport – and 97% in the fifth, Watford.

Indeed, the evidence shows that the overwhelming majority of electors who turned up to vote did so with the right documents and were not adversely affected by the pilots.

Separately, Peterborough, Slough and Tower Hamlets tested additional safeguards to strengthen the security of the postal vote process, with additional guidance provided to every postal vote applicant. The local authorities found value in the pilot as an elector engagement exercise, given the positive feedback they received from electors in reaction to being contacted.

The UK Government has been clear that electoral fraud is not a victimless crime and that it is often the most vulnerable who find themselves targeted. That is why, as Minister for the Constitution, I worked with the Electoral Commission and Crimestoppers to launch the ‘Your Vote is Yours Alone’ campaign that ran alongside the local elections to encourage the reporting of suspected electoral crime.

Today’s evaluation underlines the importance of raising awareness about how to spot electoral fraud and, crucially, how to report it, with many of the key messages of our counter-fraud measures resonating with voters.

The results of the pilot further demonstrate that requiring voter ID in polling stations is a timely, reasonable and proportionate measure that will sustain and strengthen confidence in our voting process. 

The changes we are seeking to make will bring the UK in line with many other countries around the world, such as Canada, who recognise that there is an increased expectation that everyone’s vote should be protected and that doing so guards democracy and confidence for everyone. 

In Northern Ireland, electors have been showing ID since 1985 and there is no evidence that this has affected the number of people who go and vote. It has tackled cases of voter fraud with only one conviction for personation in Northern Ireland since 2002.

We are committed to improving the security and resilience of the electoral system, strengthening our democracy and ensuring that people have confidence in our democratic processes, whilst putting equality and inclusivity at the centre of our electoral system. 

That is why we will continue to pilot ID at next year’s local elections and encourage councils to get involved and work with us to pilot in their area.


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