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Voter ID checks to be trialled in five English areas next year

Mandatory voter ID checks will be piloted across five areas in England next year, it was revealed over the weekend.

The move has been taken to crack down on electoral fraud through voter impersonation, which has more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.

Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough have volunteered to take part in the trial during the May 2018 local elections.

Tower Hamlets will also run a separate postal voting pilot to look at the security of postal votes and providing additional guidance in postal vote packs.

The councils will be able to choose what form of identification is to be used by voters, but both photo ID and non-photo ID will be trialled to see which is most effective and efficient.

This trial is likely to be the first in a series of pilots to allow the Electoral Commission and Cabinet Office to evaluate the impact of asking for ID before a decision is taken on whether or not to roll it out nationally.

“For people to have confidence in our democratic processes we need to ensure that our elections are safeguarded against any threat or perception of electoral fraud,” said minister for the constitution Chris Skidmore.

“The current situation of people simply pointing out their name without having to prove who they are feels out of date when considering other safeguards to protect people’s identity.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

Showing an ID to be able to vote has been a requirement in Northern Ireland since 1985, where there have been no reports of voter impersonation since 2003.

However, the policy of mandatory voter ID checks is not without its critics. Back in May, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) described voter checks as “like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” and raised concerns that it could actually reduce voter participation and have a detrimental effect on democracy in the UK.

But it’s a policy that is supported by the Electoral Commission, who, along with election watchdog, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation, previously said it should be “seriously considered”.

Claire Bassett, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, stated: “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.

“The Electoral Commission is responsible for carrying out an independent, statutory evaluation of the pilot schemes and we will publish our findings following the May elections, in the summer of 2018.”

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