The Electoral Commission has returned to the question of whether voters should have to show personal I.D. before voting at polling stations.This would reduce the chance of fraud – which is why it has already been introduced in Northern Ireland, with its greater history of such problems – but at the cost of requiring everyone to have a form of acceptable I.D. and so introducing complexity which both costs and may reduce turnout.
For example, not everyone has a passport or driving licence, so there is no simple ‘just let everyone use X’ way of implementing mandatory I.D.
We started from the position that a proof of identity scheme should be geographically consistent, secure and accessible. We would not support a scheme that permitted any local variation, as this could lead to accusations of partisanship shaping scheme design, as has happened in some US states.
We also think that the scheme should be based on existing forms of secure photographic proof of identity, including passports, photographic driving licences and certain public transport passes, for example. This will give polling station staff a greater level of certainty that the document presented identifies the holder. Non-photographic ID was abandoned in Northern Ireland in 2002 because of the ease with which such documents could be falsified and the fact that they did not provide sufficient proof of identity.
But how do we ensure that a proof of identity scheme is accessible to all, particularly given that some people will be less likely than others to hold the types of documents that might be used to prove identity?
We think that the answer lies in making available a “Voter Card”, which electors could apply for free of charge if they did not possess any other form of acceptable photo ID. A “Voter Card” would not in any way be akin to a national identity card and would only be used to prove identity at the polling station. It would be similar to the “Electoral Identity Card”, which electors in Northern Ireland can apply for free of charge from the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.
I am sceptical, due to the lack of evidence that there is a problem here which needs fixing, but what do you think?