May 2018 voter identification pilot schemes

Our findings

This report sets out what we found when we looked at the results of the May 2018 pilot schemes. It also looks beyond these pilot schemes at the implications for the future, and what we think the UK Government should do next.

Overall, the voter identification requirements trialled in May 2018 worked well. Nearly everyone in the five pilot scheme areas who went to vote in their polling station was able to show identification without difficulty.

The number of people who did not vote because they couldn’t show identification was very small.

Our findings

People in the areas where the pilot schemes took place were significantly less likely to think that electoral fraud took place than people in other areas with elections in May 2018. Returning Officers and their staff in polling stations were able to run the new processes well and without any significant problems.

These pilot schemes have provided useful and important initial evidence about how a voter identification requirement in Great Britain might work in practice. They have also highlighted areas where further work is needed, because there is not yet enough evidence to fully address concerns and answer questions about the impact of identification requirements on voters.

The authorities in England that took part in the 2018 pilot schemes were not sufficiently varied to be representative of the different areas and groups of people across the rest of Great Britain. This means that we can’t be sure whether people in other areas would have problems showing identification.

We also know from previous analysis and feedback from other organisations such as Mencap and RNIB that some groups of people may find it harder than others to show a passport, driving licence or travel card as part of a photo identification scheme. We have some limited evidence from these pilots that younger people and those who don’t always vote were less likely to say that they would find it easy to show identification. More work is needed to make sure these people can easily get the right kind of identification to be able to vote.

When the UK Government invited local councils to run pilot schemes in May 2018, it also said that it was open to looking at piloting in future elections. We agree that it would be helpful to collect more evidence from further pilot schemes at elections in 2019.

These pilots have shown that there may be several different ways of delivering a voter identification scheme in Great Britain. The UK Government should now focus on what further evidence they need to answer questions and address concerns about the more detailed impact of a voter identification requirement, and how the design of future pilot schemes will help to provide that evidence.

We have identified some important lessons from the 2018 pilot schemes in this report and made recommendations for further work and future pilot schemes. These recommendations would help provide the best possible evidence base for any decisions about identification requirements for voters at polling stations in Great Britain.

Our main recommendation is that the UK Government should encourage a wider range of local councils to run pilot schemes in May 2019. These should include a mixture of rural areas and large urban areas, and areas with different demographic profiles. This would help make sure there is more detailed evidence about the impact of voter identification on different groups of people.

Further work and future pilot schemes