Craven District Council was asked by the Government whether it would be interested in taking part in a voter ID pilot in the local elections due to take place on May 2, 2019.
We undertook a consultation asking for residents' views on the proposed voter ID pilot.
This consultation closed at midnight on Monday January 14.
A total of 238 responses were received. The results were as follows:
Q: Do you think a Voter ID trial should take place in Craven?
Yes: 144 votes (60.5%)
No: 94 votes (39.5%)
We also received a number of comments both for and against the pilot. Below is a summary of the comments, along with our responses.
Comments in favour of a voter ID pilot – and our responses to any issues raised
- Introducing a requirement to show ID at the polling station will reduce fraud
This risk of impersonation at the polling station would be reduced if the requirement to show ID in order to vote was introduced. At present, in order to vote at a polling station you need only give your name and address to the polling staff, and will be issued with ballot papers if those details match the polling register held by the polling staff. The polling staff have no way of verifying if that person is who they say they are at present.
- On principle, people should prove who they are before being allowed to vote
Many people are familiar with the requirement to show ID for a variety of reasons, for example when picking up a parcel from the post office. We find a lot of first time voters already expect to be asked for ID when they arrive at the polling station to vote, and many are surprised when they are only asked for their name and address.
- Due to its rural nature, Craven could make a useful contribution to the pilot
After reviewing the pilots that took place in 2018, the Electoral Commission recommended that the next pilots should include a broader variety of local authority areas. It is important for the Government to get a full picture of the impact that introducing voter ID requirements nationally would have on different types of local authority. Due to its rural nature, Craven can help ensure whichever model is ultimately adopted works for rural authorities.
- It’s going to happen eventually anyway
The Government do seem minded to introduce voter ID requirements at all elections subject to the successful completion is the 2018 and 2019 pilots. By taking part in a pilot, Craven can help shape the model before it is rolled out nationally.
Comments against the idea of a voter ID pilot - and our responses to any issues raised
- It will make people less likely to vote
Last year the Electoral Commission published an evaluation of the 2018 ID pilots which said:
“There is no evidence that levels of turnout in the pilot scheme areas were significantly affected by the requirement for polling station voters to show identification.”
In the 5 local authority areas that took part in the pilots last year, turnout did not change overall compared to previous equivalent polls.
- It may discriminate against particular groups who may not have access to the correct ID
The list of acceptable IDs will be broad and long. Voters will be required to show either one form of photo ID, or two forms of non-photo ID. One of these forms of non-photo ID can be a poll card which every registered voter is sent before each election. Voters who do not have photo ID or a second form of non-photo ID can contact Craven District Council who will issue them with an ID they can use free of charge.
- Voter ID is unnecessary because there is very little occurrence of in person voter fraud in the UK
While it is true that the number of allegations of in person voter fraud are low, perceptions of fraud are still high. The Electoral Commission found evidence that perceptions of fraud fell significantly in those areas where ID pilots took place last year. Only 15% of people in the pilot areas polled said that a little or a lot of electoral fraud took place in the elections, compared to 37% of those polled in the non-pilot areas.
- Voter ID is unnecessary because there is very little occurrence of in person voter fraud in Craven
As above, it’s true that there have been few, if any, reports of in person voter fraud in Craven in recent years. However, that being the case, by taking part in this year’s pilots the Government will get a good idea of what might work or not work in a rural area like Craven where the risk of electoral fraud is low.
- A poll card alone should be enough
Contrary to what many people believe, there is currently no requirement to show your poll card at the polling station before voting. Just giving the polling staff your name and address is sufficient under the current system. Alongside Craven’s pilot, other authorities will be trialling different models, one of which is an ID trial where voters must take their poll cards with them to vote. This is one of the models the Government is considering introducing.
- It would be a waste of money
There will be some additional costs involved in running a pilot scheme, mainly to ensure public awareness of the pilot is as high as possible. These additional costs will be met by the Cabinet Office. If the Government does decide to introduce voter ID requirements nationally, the additional costs to local authorities will be minimal after the initial period of implementation.