Queen’s Speech – Extract from Government’s Briefing Document

14 Oct 2019

Extract from Government briefing document:- OTHER LEGISLATIVE MEASURES

Electoral integrity “My Government will take steps to protect the integrity of democracy and the

electoral system in the United Kingdom.”

LEGISLATION The purpose of the legislation is to:

  • Tackle electoral fraud and protect our democracy, whether people are casting their votes at the polling station or elsewhere.
  • Make it easier for disabled voters to vote at polling stations.

The main benefits of the legislation would be:

  • Strengthening confidence in our democracy by addressing the potential for electoral fraud in our current system, where the only test in a polling station is for a voter to state their name and address.
  • Providing greater security for those who vote remotely by post or proxy and creating a deterrent for those who might seek to interfere in the democratic process.
  • Removing potential barriers faced by disabled voters.

The main elements of the legislation are:

  • Requiring voters to show an approved form of photographic ID in order to vote at a polling station in a UK parliamentary election in Great Britain and

local election in England. Any voter who does not have an approved form of ID will be able to apply, free of charge, for a local electoral identity document.

  • Banning campaigners from handling postal votes, introducing a power to limit the number of postal votes a person may hand-in, and establishing a requirement on those registered for a postal vote to re-apply every three years (currently registration can last indefinitely).

104

  • Limiting the number of people a voter may act for as a proxy to up to two electors, regardless of their relationship.
  • Allowing a wider range of people (for example, carers who would not be entitled to vote in the election) to be able to assist disabled voters in a ‘companion’ role.
  • Requiring returning officers to provide equipment to support voters with sight loss and other disabilities who find it difficult to vote. Territorial extent and application
  • The legislation’s provisions would extend and apply to the whole of the UK for UK parliamentary elections, which is a reserved matter, though the requirement to show ID to vote in Northern Ireland has existed since 1985. Some provisions also apply to certain other non-devolved elections in the UK, including Assembly and local government elections in Northern Ireland, and local elections in England.

OTHER MEASURES

  • The Government has committed to implementing an imprints regime for digital election material. This will ensure greater transparency and make it clearer to the electorate who has produced and promoted online political materials. The Government will bring forward proposals for the technical implementation in the coming months.
  • The Government will launch a consultation to consider measures to strengthen the provisions that protect our democracy from foreign interference. This is part of our work to continue to safeguard our democracy, strengthen our resilience and ensure that the regulatory framework is as watertight as possible. We will shortly be holding discussions with interested groups as well as exploring the potential for cross-party agreement.

Key facts

  • The election court judgement in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets case (2015) illustrated that more needs to be done to protect the integrity of our democracy.
  • In 2016 Sir (now Lord) Eric Pickles published his review of electoral fraud ‘ Securing the ballot’ . The report included a number of recommendations to 105 address electoral fraud, including that the Government should consider the options for electors to have to produce personal identification before voting at polling stations.
  • In its response to Lord Pickles’ review ‘A democracy that works for everyone: a clear and secure democracy’ the Government emphasised that electoral fraud is unacceptable on any level. The Government committed then to:
  •  Prevent the intimidation and undue influence of voters.

○ End the dubious practice of postal vote harvesting.

○ Pilot the use of identification in polling stations.

  • Voter ID was piloted at local elections in England in 2018 and 2019 and its impact was evaluated by the independent Electoral Commission. Their evaluation of the 2019 pilots found that public confidence in the electoral system was higher in the voter ID pilot areas.
  • In the areas piloting voter ID, the Electoral Commission found a notable increase in the number of people who regarded electoral fraud not to be a problem (30 per cent to 39 per cent). This change was not seen in areas not piloting voter ID.
  • In Woking, which piloted photographic ID in both 2018 and 2019, 99.9% of people who attended a polling station in 2019 were able to show the right photographic ID and were issued with a ballot paper.
  • Paper ID has been required to vote in Northern Ireland since 1985 and photo ID since 2003. The pilots and experience in Northern Ireland demonstrate that the requirement to show ID does not negatively impact turnout or participation.

106