UK Politics

Five areas in England to pilot voter ID checks

Polling station

Voters in five areas in England will be asked to take identification to polling stations at local elections next year as part of a pilot scheme.

People in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough will be asked to take different forms of ID with them to see which works best.

The Electoral Commission recommended three years ago that voters be asked to prove their identity.

Minister Chris Skidmore said the aim was to ensure the system was "secure".

Reports of "personation" in polling stations - votes cast in someone else's name - increased from 21 in 2014 to 44 in 2016.

'Completely unnecessary'

Mr Skidmore said the current situation meant it was harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel than it was to vote in someone else's name.

He told the BBC: "We currently have a situation where people can go into the ballot station, point out their name on the register, don't need to provide any information to prove who they are."

He said it was corrosive to democracy if people did not believe the system was secure.

"At the moment we simply don't know if people are impersonating one another or not. We just need to make sure that the system is secure enough."

For some years, voters in Northern Ireland have had to prove their identity at polling stations.

But Tom Brake, for the Liberal Democrats, described the latest proposals as "a completely unnecessary move that risks undermining our democracy by preventing millions of people from voting".

"Evidence from around the world tells us forcing voters to bring ID won't stop determined fraudsters, but is likely to led to even lower turnouts amongst young people and minority groups."

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