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Voter ID plans labelled 'costly and undemocratic'

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Requiring voters to produce ID at polling stations could potentially result in tens of thousands of voters being denied a vote with the country’s poorest and most marginalised the most likely to be affected, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

Jess Garland, director of research at the Electoral Reform Society, said the government’s answer to electoral fraud was misplaced as it would be better to address “those who are seeking to manipulate our elections through disinformation and unregulated finance.”

Ms Garland said: “If rolled out nationally this scheme could cost the taxpayer up to £20m per general election and, based on this year’s trials, could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.

“These are significant numbers – and the disenfranchising effect of voter ID could easily swing the result of future elections.

“The government should abandon these costly, undemocratic plans and focus on boosting democratic engagement instead.”

The Electoral Reform Society claimed after the trial that almost 4,000 people were denied a ballot paper across the five pilot areas (1.67% of those who tried to vote), based on a report by the observer group Democracy Volunteers.

Read more: Turnout up in polling card pilot areas and down for ID cards

The Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA), the body behind the pilot, told LGC however that that figure seemed “incredibly high” and insisted the pilots had passed without any major issues.

In today’s report the Electoral Reform Society said that 99% of ballot officers reported a lack of suspicion that fraud had taken place in their polling station.

According to the president of the Electoral Reform Society, there were just 28 allegations of ‘personation’ fraud at ballot boxes in 2017.

Responding to the report, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Voters deserve to be confident that their vote is protected.

“We already ask that people prove who they are in order to collect a parcel from the post office, rent a car, or travel abroad - and we believe it is right to take the same approach to protect voting rights.

“Evaluation from the May 2019 pilots will further inform how voter ID should work on a national scale, including costs and what approach will work best for voters and the taxpayer.”

Writing for LGC last month, constitution minister Chloe Smith outlined her plans to expand the pilot programme as she said “we owe it to voters to ensure they know their voices are heard and their right to vote is protected”.

She added “electoral fraud is not a victimless crime” and said the government wants to get “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.”

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