Thank you very much indeed for contacting me about voter ID. All read carefully and noted by me.
The requirement for voters to produce photographic ID at the polling stations is part of a wider initiative by the Government to improve trust in the integrity of the electoral process and maintain public confidence in our electoral system. I welcome these measures and believe it is well past time for us to have voter ID for our British elections.
I am aware that some constituents are concerned by this particular measure, citing fears of discrimination and disenfranchisement. Please let me assure you that these concerns are unfounded, as the recent pilot studies proved across the country and here in Woking.
Under the Government’s likely proposals, the list of approved ID will not be limited to passports and driving licences, as some critics have suggested. Instead, a wide range of documents will almost certainly be accepted, including, for example, concessionary travel passes, PASS scheme cards, official student cards, Ministry of Defence identity cards and photocard parking permits issued as part of the Blue Badge scheme. For voters without the required ID, local authorities will provide a local electoral ID, free of charge, to ensure that everyone eligible to vote has the opportunity to do so.
Significantly, the Electoral Commission has recommended time and time again that voters should be required to show ID before receiving a ballot paper. In its view, the system used in Northern Ireland, whereby voters have been required to show photo ID before casting a vote at a polling station since 2003, should be rolled out across Great Britain. The process runs smoothly there, with no discernible impact on turnout or participation in elections.
As you will be aware, the Government conducted a number of voter ID pilots in 2018 and 2019. The pilots were delivered on a voluntary basis by 15 local authorities, including here in Woking. They demonstrated the capacity of Returning Officers to deliver successful elections that included the requirement for voters to provide ID. The Electoral Commission’s independent evaluation of the pilots concluded that the requirement to provide ID before voting did not have a negative effect on turnout or participation. The Electoral Commission’s evaluation of the 2019 pilots also found that public confidence in the electoral system was much stronger in the voter ID pilot areas than it was beforehand (and, by implication, than elsewhere).
Nearly everyone who came to their polling station and wanted to vote in each of the pilots was able to show the right identification and be issued with a ballot paper. Out of all those who went to their polling stations in the pilots, the proportion who couldn’t show ID and who did not return to vote was extremely small.
To sum up, it is well past time for us to have voter ID for our British elections. It has worked in Northern Ireland and worked remarkably well in our pilot areas, and I think it should be adopted in due course. I am supported strongly in this view by the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, whose constituency covers much of Tower Hamlets. Like me, he believes our democracy is very precious and needs to be protected.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me about this important matter.
With best wishes.
Member of Parliament for Woking