Postal and proxy voting pilots test efforts to tackle electoral fraud

Voter information, defeating electoral fraud

Pilot schemes for postal and proxy voters in Peterborough, Slough and Tower Hamlets were well-run, finds an Electoral Commission report. However, the Commission’s statutory evaluation of the pilots has not been able to draw firm conclusions on their impact.

Each pilot, carried out during May’s local elections, consisted of a leaflet in postal ballot packs with additional information on postal voting and what voters should do if they were concerned about electoral fraud. Returning Officers also contacted a sample of voters to check they had applied for a postal vote. In Peterborough, people voting as proxies were required to show identification at polling stations.

Feedback from the pilot areas suggests that these processes were manageable for electoral staff. The Commission also notes that well-designed and carefully worded information is likely to help encourage people to report evidence about electoral fraud.

Craig Westwood, Director of Communications and Research at the Electoral Commission, said:

We welcome measures that could provide voters with greater confidence in the security of voting by post or when appointing a proxy to cast a vote on their behalf. Returning Officers in areas where there have been concerns about electoral fraud can learn from these pilots and provide voters at future elections with useful information about how to keep their vote safe.

The Commission’s evaluation concludes that it is not clear that further pilot schemes of these postal voting measures would be helpful. Returning Officers can already choose to include leaflets in voting packs and carry out follow up activity without any change to legislation. Instead, the Commission recommends that the UK’s governments should look at giving Returning Officers more flexibility to cancel or reissue postal votes where a voter reports that their postal vote has been taken or completed by someone else.

On the Peterborough pilot requiring proxy voters to show identification, the Commission recently made recommendations for further testing of voter identification requirements in polling stations. These recommendations apply to any requirement for people who vote as a proxy on behalf of someone else to show identification. The Commission recommended that any further voter identification pilots should include participation from councils with a mixture of rural and urban areas, and different demographic profiles.

As part of its evaluation of these pilot schemes, the Commission collected data supplied by each local authority on the activities undertaken as part of the pilot, interviewed electoral administrators and analysed data from a survey of postal voters carried out by the Cabinet Office.


The report, ‘May 2018 voter identification schemes: Findings and recommendations’ is available on our website.

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office:

Extra notes

Notes to editors

  • The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. It works to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
    • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
    • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

    The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

  • The pilot schemes held at the elections on Thursday 3 May 2018 were set up by the UK Government under the Representation of the People Act 2000. The law requires the Electoral Commission to evaluate and report on any pilot scheme, including on the scheme’s ‘success or otherwise in facilitating…voting at the elections in question’.
  • At the May polls, the Government also conducted pilots to test the requirement for identification to be presented in polling stations, we published a statutory report on these. Five local councils were selected to run these schemes: Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford, and Woking.
  • Prior to the 2018 polls the Commission worked with Crimestoppers on a public awareness campaign to encourage voters to report electoral fraud, called ‘your vote is yours alone.’