UK Voting ID Pilot Schemes: Everything You Need To Know

American TV network FOX aired a special short of The Simpsons five years ago entitled Homer Votes 2012. During the brief episode, the cartoon protagonist attempts to vote for Barack Obama, only to find the electronic polling machine is rigged to register votes exclusively for Republican candidate John McCain. The show has been renowned for its timely political satire, and this little segment put a humorous spin on political rigging – a topic and concern that has surrounded American elections for some time and is beginning to cause similar unrest in the UK.

The British public’s faith in the voting system has been shaken slightly in recent years, with nearly 500 reported cases of voter fraud reported in 2015 by the independent Electoral Commission. In an attempt to prevent the voting process from losing its integrity and the system from being undermined, the UK government has moved to launch a voting pilot scheme – where people turning up at a selected polling stations must present a valid form of ID in order to place their vote.

Here is everything you need to know about the scheme.

The Reasons

The 2015 voter fraud numbers have influenced the government’s decision to trial the ID system, with increased amounts of voters in the country also playing a role. The UK public are seemingly more invested in political matters than they have been for a long time, with the EU Referendum seeing a turnout of more than 33 million – the highest voting figures in Britain for 25 years. With this in mind, the government are arguing that it is more important than ever to crack down on voting fraud, and are setting up the ID pilot scheme as a way to test the waters and enhance security.

The Differences

During the next set of local elections in 2018, anyone visiting a polling station in the UK may be asked to provide a legitimate form of ID in order to cast their ballot. Accepted forms of identification may include a passport, driving licence, and/or proof of address – similar to the kinds of ID one might need when opening a new bank account, for example. The “showing ID to vote” system is already implemented in Northern Ireland.

 The Controversy

Some are voicing concerns at the requests for ID at polling stations, with claims that the new system could potentially prevent hundreds or even thousands of people from being able to successfully cast their vote. The Labour Party in particular have expressed their doubts about the new rules and regulations, with representatives stating that the need for ID may dissuade low-income, older, and ethnic minority citizens from taking part.

The Future

A choice number of local authorities will be selected to pilot the ID voting scheme to begin with, and whilst it remains to be seen whether the system will be implemented on a full-time basis, the statistics suggest that the majority of the UK public believe it to be a good idea that could benefit the country in the long run