A secure electoral system is a vital component of a healthy democracy, and the public must have confidence that elections are secure and fit for the 21st century. Asking voters to bring identification to their polling station is an important way of achieving this and the Elections Bill will put such a requirement into law. This is part of a wider package of proposals in the Elections Bill to strengthen electoral integrity – including measures to tackle postal and proxy voting fraud, tackling intimidation, increasing transparency of digital campaigning, and preventing foreign interference in elections.
Identification to vote has been backed by the Electoral Commission and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which state that its absence is a security risk.
In Northern Ireland voters have been required to produce personal identification before voting in polling stations since 1985, with photographic identification being required since 2003 when introduced by the last Labour Government.
The Electoral Commission has commented that “since the introduction of photo ID in Northern Ireland there have been no reported cases of personation. Voters’ confidence that elections are well-run in Northern Ireland is consistently higher than in Great Britain, and there are virtually no allegations of electoral fraud at polling stations.”
Under the Government’s proposals, anyone without a form of identification will be able to apply for a new free one – meaning that no voter will be disenfranchised.