Voters in the UK will have to show photographic ID before casting their ballot in future elections, under plans set to be announced in the Queen’s Speech on Monday, it has been reported.
According to the reports, it would become a legal requirement for voters to produce photographic ID, such as driving licences or passport before casting their votes in elections. But how could such checks impact our democracy?
It is thought that compulsory ID checks at polling stations could reduce electoral fraud and increase the security of the voting system.
However, voter ID checks are considered somewhat controversial. According to the Electoral Reform Society, evidence shows that forcing voters to bring photographic ID to the polling station makes it harder for people to vote.
Compulsory ID checks could mean some people cannot vote if they forget to take their ID documents to the polling station. Additionally, the Electoral Commission sighted in a 2015 report that approximately 3.5 million electors have no form of photo ID. If only passports and driving licences were considered as acceptable forms of ID under the checks, around 24% of the electorate would be left without acceptable ID, according to the report. It has though been suggested that a free ID card for use at elections may be made available by local councils.
In 2019, trials of voter ID checks in pilot areas were declared a ‘success’ by the Cabinet Office. However, it could be argued that the introduction of such a system nationwide may not have that much of a positive impact due to extremely low levels of electoral fraud – in 2018, only 266 cases of electoral fraud were investigated by the police and there was only one conviction.
Voter ID checks are already compulsory in many countries around the world – including in Australia, Brazil, Iceland and the Netherlands. Photographic ID is also already a mandatory requirement in order to vote in elections in Northern Ireland.
Whether voter ID checks put up barriers to voting or improve our democracy is a debated issue. It is thought that the Labour Party could oppose the proposed roll-out of the check, sighting that it may make it harder for people to vote.
The reported plan is just one that could be announced in the Queen’s Speech when Parliament returns from suspension on Monday 14 October.