Voters in five local authorities will need to show ID before they can vote in local elections next May, in a move aimed at combating voter fraud but which Labour and the Liberal Democrats have warned could disenfranchise thousands of people. Voters in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough will be asked to show ID at polling stations before being issued with a ballot paper, but the five local authorities are likely to trial a variety of systems, including showing photo ID or providing polling cards where individual barcodes could be scanned. The Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission said details were still being finalised of what photo ID would be required, as well as a system involving non-photo ID, but both would be trialled to see which was more effective and efficient.
The move towards voter ID, which was pledged in the Conservative manifesto, has been recommended by the Electoral Commission since 2014, as well as in a report into electoral fraud by former Conservative cabinet minister Eric Pickles in the wake of an election malpractice scandal in Tower Hamlets, east London.
Reports of alleged electoral fraud through impersonation more than doubled between 2014 and 2016, according to the Electoral Commission, but other campaigners have voiced concerns that the scheme will be a barrier to voting.
The pressure group Electoral Reform Society has described the policy as “a sledgehammer to crack a nut” and said most instances of electoral fraud were isolated and could be tackled locally.