Voter ID checks are welcome but will do nothing to increase engagement

polling stationThe UK Government have formally announced plans to pilot ID checks at polling stations across England.

Announcing the move, the Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore MP said:

“Voting is one of the most important transactions you can make as an individual. In many transactions you need a proof of ID. I’m determined to ensure, when it comes to groups who are under-registered, that they get the opportunity to exercise their vote. Ensuring those communities are protected, that the risks of electoral fraud are diminished, will ensure those individuals are represented fairly across this country.”

The reforms follow a report by former Communities Secretary, Sir Eric Pickles who investigated fraud in elections earlier this year. Responding to the move he tweeted:

“The Government are right to give greater powers to electoral officials and the police to deal with intimidation and other unwanted behaviour.”

driving-licence

The Institute for Digital Democracy’s statement in response to the Government’s announcement is below:

“The Government are correct to ignore some of Sir Eric Pickles’ more retrograde recommendations such as banning selfies and non-English languages at polling stations. They are also correct to seek to address the current lack of voter verification we see throughout elections. However, the Government risk isolating communities by ruling out the possibility of introducing a separate voter identity document for those without traditional forms of ID.

A real pilot scheme would test all viable options including a separate voter identity document.

The Institute for Digital Democracy believe that tackling voter fraud, an issue which is negligible in the UK, is the wrong priority for Chris Skidmore. Instead he should be focusing on how to boost voter engagement, something which this new reform will do nothing to tackle.

Our estimates show that 95% of the UK’s 19,000 elected politicians were voted in on turnouts of less than 50%. In the EU referendum, 13 million people did not vote. On top of that, voters with vision impairments, voters with disabilities, and voters abroad are virtually locked out of the voting system. These are the issues the Mr Skidmore should be concentrating on. Rather than tinkering with a broken system of the past, we should instead look to the future of elections and create a system fit for the 21st century.”

The Government’s response to Sir Eric Pickles report can be found here. An earlier blog by IDD Chief Executive, Areeq Chowdhury, can be read here.

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