The voter identification pilots, held in ten local authorities at May’s local elections, ran well but several important questions remain about how an identification requirement would work in practice. These are the key findings from the Electoral Commission’s statutory evaluation of the pilots that has been published today.
The ten pilots have provided further evidence about what it would mean for people to show ID at polling stations in Great Britain, building on the five pilots held in 2018. They do not however allow definitive conclusions to be drawn about the impact of an ID requirement on some groups of people at future elections.
Craig Westwood, Director of Communications, Policy and Research, said:
Nearly everyone in the pilot areas who went to vote at their polling station was able to show the correct ID without difficulty. Important questions however remain about how an ID requirement would work in practice, particularly at a national poll with higher levels of turnout. As the pilots have taken place in a limited number of areas and at local elections, we are not able to draw definitive conclusions from them.
“Government and Parliament now need to consider carefully the available evidence about the impact of different approaches, on the accessibility and security of polling station voting. In addition to the pilots held in England, it will be important to reflect on the experiences of voters in Northern Ireland where voter ID has been a requirement for many years.
Key areas to consider
The Commission has identified three key areas for Government and Parliament to consider:
- Any ID requirement should deliver clear improvements to current security levels
- Any ID requirement should ensure accessibility for all voters
- Any ID requirement should be realistically deliverable, taking into account the resources required to administer it
Key findings from the pilots
- Nearly everyone who came to their polling station and wanted to vote in each of the pilots was able to show the right identification and be issued with a ballot paper. Out of all those who went to their polling station in the pilots, the proportion who couldn’t show ID and who did not return to vote ranged from 0.03% to 0.7%
- Some groups of people may find it harder than others to show ID, particularly photo ID. This includes people with accessibility requirements as well as some groups of people who did not attempt to vote in the May 2019 local elections but are more likely to vote at a UK general election
- The experience of taking part in the pilot scheme appears to have had a positive impact on people’s perception of the security of voting at a polling station
- Polling station staff were satisfied with how polling day went and were confident they could manage the process of people showing identification at a future election
To make sure that the evidence gathered was thorough and robust, the Commission collected information from different sources. This included:
- a survey asking people in each area what they thought of the scheme
- a survey of people who worked in polling stations
- data about what ID people showed to vote (and the number of people turned away for not having the correct ID)
- views and evidence from organisations that represent different groups of voters
- information about how much it cost to run the pilot scheme
- an expert review of the security of the different voter ID models
The full report ‘May 2019 voter identification pilot schemes – our evaluation’ is available on our website.
For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
- The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work 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 Commission’s statutory role in the pilots was to provide an independent evaluation of the scheme.
- Ten local councils took part in the voter identification pilots at polling stations at their local elections on Thursday 2 May 2019. These were: Pendle, Woking, Braintree, Broxtowe, Craven, Derby, North Kesteven, Mid Sussex, North West Leicestershire and Watford.
- People in Pendle and Woking had to bring photographic ID to vote at the polling station. People in Braintree, Broxtowe, Craven, Derby and North Kesteven had to bring either a form of photographic ID or two forms of non-photographic ID to vote at the polling station. People in Mid Sussex, North West Leicestershire and Watford had to bring their poll cards to vote at the polling station.
- People in Northern Ireland have had to show photographic ID when voting since 2003.