The UK Government is proposing several changes to postal voting:
A maximum period of three years on voters’ application to hold a postal vote. Voters would need to re-apply at the end of that time.
Restricting those able to hand in a postal vote to the voter, their family member or a designated carer acting on their behalf.
Preventing someone from handing in more than two postal ballot packs at polling stations, in addition to their own. The current rules do not specify who can hand in a postal vote or how many can be returned by one person.
Banning parties and campaigners from handling completed postal votes and postal vote envelopes.
Any changes to the postal voting system should improve its security and maintain its accessibility. This approach would minimise the risk of fraud, while ensuring everyone who wants to vote by post is able to do so easily.
Our public opinion research shows that people continue to have less confidence in the safety of postal voting, compared to polling station voting. 68% believe postal voting is secure, compared with 90% of people who feel voting in a polling station is secure.
Strengthening the protections around postal voting, including the ban on campaigners handling postal votes, should improve voter trust and confidence in the system.
It should address concerns that electoral fraud may be taking place, or that there is potential for inappropriate activity when postal ballot packs are handled.
Currently, postal voters are asked to provide their date of birth and signature, both when they apply and when they return their postal vote. Asking voters to reapply for a postal vote after three years would help local councils to ensure that these personal details are up to date and accurate.
This would reduce the risk of postal votes being rejected because the date of birth and signature don’t match.
However, limiting who can hand in postal votes at polling stations, and the number they can hand in, could create barriers for some voters who genuinely need assistance.
It would also add complex new procedures for polling station staff. Security would still be improved by recording who has handed in postal votes, without risking a harmful impact on accessibility from placing new limits on the ability to hand them in.