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ID needed at polling stations, recommends independent watchdog

News release published: 08-01-2014

Voters should be required to show ID at polling stations in Great Britain to tighten up the security of the voting process, the elections watchdog has said. 

The Electoral Commission will now develop detailed proposals for how the scheme should work.

Evidence collected by the Commission in its review of electoral fraud revealed that fraud is not widespread in the UK but, despite this, a significant proportion of the public remain concerned that it is taking place.

This has the potential to undermine confidence in the electoral system if not addressed. The Commission considered views on a number of options to tighten the electoral system against fraud and is today publishing its final report.

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said: “Proven cases of electoral fraud are rare and when it is committed, the perpetrators tend to be candidates or their supporters. Voters are the victims and sustained action is needed now to prevent fraud from taking place. Although the introduction of individual electoral registration this year will tighten up the registration system more can and should be done.

"Voters value the contact that they have with campaigners. But as we look to the next General Election, there needs to be a change in campaigner behaviour in order to help rebuild trust in the system. Campaigners must no longer handle postal votes, or postal vote applications under any circumstances. We should be able to achieve this through a strengthened Code of Conduct. But if we cannot, we will recommend that the law is changed.

"Looking ahead, the time has come for England, Scotland and Wales to move towards a requirement for voters to produce ID at polling stations. This would strengthen the system and bring Great Britain into line with Northern Ireland and many  countries where this is already in place."

Recommendations

The Commission is making three main recommendations to tighten up the electoral system:

1. Sustained action now to tackle the risk of electoral fraud, particularly in higher risk areas.

The Commission has identified a number of areas where there is a higher risk of allegations of electoral fraud (See Notes to Editors 2).

Before the May 2014 elections action must be taken to protect the integrity of elections in all areas, but particularly in higher risk areas.In particular:Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) and Returning Officers (ROs) should analyse their area’s history of alleged and proven electoral fraud, together with electoral data from previous elections.

Based on this analysis, they should plan what steps they will take against fraud – for example, the tests they apply when considering applications to register to vote.

Police forces should have plans in place for policing elections, drawn up in consultation with EROs and ROs. Policing plans are likely, for example, to identify specific areas where policing operations on the ground might need to be strengthened, such as around individual polling stations.

Candidates, political parties and other campaigners should publicly make clear their commitment to following the Code of Conduct for campaignersThe Commission will continue to closely monitor those areas where there is a higher risk of allegations of electoral fraud in 2014 and beyond, and provide continuing guidance and support to EROs, ROs and police forces across the UK.

2. Restricting the involvement of campaigners in absent vote administration processes by the 2015 elections.

Campaigners should no longer handle postal or proxy vote application forms or completed postal ballot papers.

The Commission will discuss these changes with political parties and other campaigners and introduce a revised Code of Conduct for Campaigners for elections after May 2014, including the May 2015 UK Parliamentary general election.Details of which parties and campaigners have agreed to follow the code will be made public.

3. Introducing the requirement for voters to produce ID at polling stations to be implemented after the 2015 elections.

Voters should be required to show proof of their identity before they can be issued with a ballot paper at polling stations for elections and referendums in Great Britain.

The Commission will publish detailed proposals for a proof of identity scheme by the end of 2014 and wants to see this change in place by no later than the 2019 European and English local government elections.

Ends

Read the report Electoral fraud in the UK - Final report and recommendations (PDF)

For more information and to arrange media interviews, please contact Rosemary Davenport on 020 7271 0704/outside office hours on 07789 920 414, or by email on press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK's democratic process. We regulate party and election finance, set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. The areas where there has been a history of cases of alleged fraud are: Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Coventry, Derby, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall, and Woking.
  3. The Commission will now undertake further research, using case studies, to help address concerns about the vulnerability of some South Asian communities to electoral fraud and design better strategies to prevent electoral fraud at future elections. The Commission’s previous press release on the consultation phases of the review is available to read here.
  4. Developing and implementing a robust proof of identity scheme will take time, and the Commission believes it is unlikely that such a scheme could be implemented in time for the scheduled 2015 UK Parliamentary general election. The Commission recommends that a proof of identity scheme should be in place in time to be used at the 2019 European Parliamentary and English local government elections.

Journalist