Voters in Watford, along with four other local authorities in England will need to show ID before they can vote next May in a move to pilot how best to tackle electoral fraud.
The news will be announced today (Saturday, 16 September) by the Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore.
The move comes after reports of alleged electoral fraud through voter impersonation more than doubled between 2014 and 2016, according to figures from the Electoral Commission.
As well as Watford, Bromley, Gosport, Slough and Woking have volunteered to take part in a trial in the May 2018 local elections, which will require voters to produce ID before being issued with a ballot paper.
The form of identification to be used will be set by the councils, but the pilot will involve trialling both photo ID and non-photo ID to see what is most effective and efficient.
Next year’s trial is likely to be the first in a series of pilots to allow the Electoral Commission and Cabinet Office to evaluate the impact of asking for ID before a decision is taken on whether or not to roll it out nationally.
Many countries around the world have already made it a requirement to prove identity at a polling station
And it is already a requirement in Northern Ireland, where photographic ID has been requested since 2003 and previously paper ID was required from 1985. There have been no reports of voter impersonation since 2003.
Voter ID was raised in a report on voting fraud by Sir Eric Pickles, published in August last year.
The Electoral Commission has called for its introduction and the international election watchdog the Organisation for Security and Co-operation has said it should be “seriously considered”.
Elected Mayor of Watford Borough Council, Baroness Dorothy Thornhill, said:
“Watford is pleased to support the Cabinet Office’s initiative. Whilst we always have very positive feedback on how elections are run in Watford, it is always good to try new things – especially where they might encourage everyone to use their vote and make sure they exercise their democratic right at election time.”
Managing Director and Returning Officer for Watford Borough Council, Manny Lewis, said:
“We are taking part in this pilot to support the continued integrity of the voting system and ability of eligible voters to cast their votes without difficulty. We are particularly keen to ensure that voter ID requirements have a really positive impact on the election process.”
Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore, said:
"For people to have confidence in our democratic processes we need to ensure that our elections are safeguarded against any threat or perception of electoral fraud.
"The current situation of people simply pointing out their name without having to prove who they are feels out of date when considering other safeguards to protect people's identity. It is harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel at a post office than it is to vote in someone’s name.
“I am very hopeful that by taking a careful evidence-based approach in these pilots we will be able to roll out ID in polling stations at future elections.”
Claire Bassett, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, said:
“We welcome the Minister’s announcement today as a positive first step towards implementing our 2014 recommendation that an accessible, proportionate voter identification scheme should be introduced in Great Britain.
“Voters in Northern Ireland have been required to show photographic proof of identity since 2003, and we have the opportunity to learn from that experience. The Electoral Commission is responsible for carrying out an independent, statutory evaluation of the pilot schemes and we will publish our findings following the May elections, in the summer of 2018.”