At next year’s local government elections on 2 May, we will be holding the second round of voter ID pilots, where electors will be asked to show some form of identification before they vote. Yesterday we published our formal prospectus inviting local authorities to come forward and join these next pilots in 2019.
As minister for the constitution, I am committed to implementing this policy, a common sense approach to making our elections among the most secure in the world.
We must produce photo ID to get something as straightforward as a library card, yet we vote on the future of our communities without needing to prove it is us making that choice.
I encourage local authorities to help us deliver this crucial project, be part of the solution and work with us to identify what is best for voters.
For a local authority, taking part in the next round of pilots is a chance to be at the forefront of improving the way our elections are run. The costs of running the pilots will be covered by the Cabinet Office. The feedback we received from councils who previously participated is already shaping how this policy can be best delivered as we roll it out further.
Following on from the smooth running of the five voter ID pilots in May, we are keen to build on what we’ve learned and expand our trial across England. Everything tested was workable for local authorities, as ultimately they are the ones who deliver our elections.
Our evaluation of the 2018 trial showed that most of the pilot requirements could be delivered alongside usual activities. We also received excellent feedback from polling station staff who said they successfully delivered the ID requirements in their polling stations.
Most importantly, our evidence and that from the independent Electoral Commission shows the overwhelming majority of electors who turned up to vote did so with the right documents and were not adversely affected by the pilots. In Bromley and Watford, just 0.2% of voters asked to return with ID chose not to do so, in Woking it was 0.3%, Gosport 0.4% and in Swindon 0.06%.
But we are not complacent.
We are engaging groups who are less likely to vote or may face barriers to voting, working with care homes to ensure residents who might not have the right documents can get an alternative, and continuing to raise awareness about the pilots.
By introducing a simple requirement of asking voters to show ID we can ensure our electoral systems are robust, improving security and confidence among voters.
We owe it to voters to ensure they know their voices are heard and their right to vote is protected.
Electoral fraud is not a victimless crime and we should be taking every precaution to prevent it. Electoral fraud takes away an elector’s right to vote as they want – whether through intimidation, bribery or by impersonating someone and casting their vote.
The changes we seek will bring the UK in line with other countries around the world, such as Canada. In Northern Ireland, electors have been showing ID since 1985 and there is no evidence that this has affected the numbers who vote.
But we want to have an even deeper understanding of how voter ID will work on a national scale and what works best for voters. We can’t do that without the help of local authorities who, I know from our experience this year, will take a great deal from being involved.
I look forward to working with the returning officers and their dedicated teams who pilot next year. These pilots are essential in helping us get this right, with the result being even greater confidence in our democratic processes.
Chloe Smith, minister for the constitution