Concern over voter ID trial in Braintree

30 April 2019, 09:06 | Updated: 30 April 2019, 09:09

Ballot Box

There are concerns that new voter ID trials at ten locations, including Braintree, could "undermine the right to vote".

In this week's local elections, new requirements to present ID at polling stations are being trialled in some areas.

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) says the policy risks excluding voters who do not possess identification papers and represents "a significant risk to democratic access and equality".

Last year's voter ID pilots saw more than 1,000 people turned away for not having the correct documentation. Of these, around 350 did not return to vote.

According to the Electoral Commission, personation fraud - pretending to be someone else at the ballot box - made up just eight of the 266 cases investigated by police relating to elections in 2018. By contrast, campaigning offences accounted for more than half of complaints.

Dr Jess Garland, director of policy and research at the ERS, said: "Forcing all voters to show their papers at the polling station is a solution looking for a problem.

"Most electoral offences are committed by parties rather than voters. Yet it is innocent voters who lose out when the Government locks ordinary people out of democracy - and millions risk being excluded from our politics because of these plans."

The Government estimates the cost of introducing mandatory voter ID nationally as between £4 million and £20 million per general election.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Electoral fraud is an unacceptable crime that strikes at a core principle of our democracy - that everyone's vote matters.

"Showing ID to vote is a reasonable way to stop this and is something people already do every day, when they pick up a parcel at the post office, claim their benefits or take out a library book.

"Both last year's pilots and the decades of experience of Northern Ireland show that voter ID does not have an adverse effect on election turnout or participation."