The UK’s former communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ended 2016 by claiming the mantle of defender of British democracy. To combat electoral fraud in local government he called for new controls to guarantee the probity of voting in municipal elections. Most notably, this would mean the requirement of voters to produce photographic ID before they are allowed into a polling booth. The proposals were dismissed by some as using “a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. But that metaphor may actually be too generous. The intended target of the reforms may be missed altogether, while the collateral damage to British elections could be significant. Pickles’s sledgehammer is more like a blunderbuss.
The Tory MP argued that recent episodes of electoral fraud in local contests illustrate a wider problem of corruption whereby votes are cast in other people’s names. He proposes that in future, in certain areas, voters should present documentary identification prior to voting at the polling station.
It is true that there have been episodes of electoral fraud in recent years, and, as Mr Pickles states, in strongly diverse communities. One resulted in the unseating of three Birmingham councillors in 2005 for the mishandling of postal ballots “on an industrial scale”. And a directly-elected mayor in a London borough was accused of falsifying postal vote applications and manipulating voters through community leaders in 2015. But the rarity of these cases demonstrates that Pickles’s proposals are based on an exaggeration of the situation, and likely to be welcomed by divisive extremists.
Full Article: Showing ID at polling stations will not end election fraud.