Voters should provide photo ID at polling stations, says report
Calls for ID checks and police in 'at-risk' areas with large Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations
VOTERS will be required to show photo ID at polling stations as part of a suite of proposals to eliminate electoral fraud. But how widespread is the problem and will the new measures eradicate it? Here are five key questions:
How serious a problem is electoral fraud in the UK?
The chair of the Electoral Commission, Jenny Watson, says proven cases of electoral fraud are "rare". When it is committed, she adds, the "perpetrators tend to be candidates or their supporters". Even so, a report released by the Electoral Commission today says a tightening of voting rules is necessary to "restore public confidence following fears of ballot-rigging", according to The Guardian.
It has particular concerns about some South Asian communities which it believes are particularly susceptible to electoral fraud. Sixteen local authority areas – all in England – have received large numbers of complaints of vote-rigging.
The at-risk areas identified by the Commission include Birmingham, which was the scene of a notorious ballot-rigging case in 2004. Others on the list are Blackburn, Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Coventry, Derby, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall and Woking. Most, but not all of these areas have large Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the Guardian says.
What is the Electoral Commission proposing?
Voters would be required to show photo ID when they cast their vote and police would attend polling stations at the 16 councils where ballot-rigging is most prevalent, the Daily Mirror says.
The Commission also wants to restrict the use of postal votes, a system that it says is vulnerable to abuse. Under the new rules, political party activists would no longer be allowed to handle postal votes or applications. The Commission said this aim should be achieved by a "strengthened code of conduct", but if the code did not eradicate abuse the laws should be changed.
When does the Commission want these checks in place?
The system won't be up and running by next year's general election, but should be introduced before the 2019 local government and European Parliament polls.
Are these checks already in use elsewhere?
They are. Northern Ireland has required voters to produce some form of identification since 1985. Concerns over the ease with which ID could be falsified saw a tightening of the rules in 2005. NI voters now have to produce photo ID at the ballot box. Those without a passport or driving licence are able to use an Electoral Identity Card which is issued free of charge by the chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland.
In its report, the Electoral Commission said it has gathered "substantial evidence" that the lack of a requirement for ID [in England, Scotland and Wales] is "both an actual and a perceived weakness in the [electoral] system."
Does anyone object to the proposals?
Guy Herbert from the civil rights group No2ID told the BBC it would be "absurd" if a government that scrapped the Home Office's centralised ID scheme made photo ID a requirement to vote.
Herbert said: "Does this quango get to change the face of our society? The idea is all cost and very little benefit. Holding official identity documents would become a requirement for democratic participation, registration effectively compulsory." ·