Comment on Elections Bill Ministerial Statement and Voter Identification Policy Paper

Commenting on the latest Elections Bill Ministerial Statement and new UK Government Voter Identification policy paper, Peter Stanyon, AEA Chief Executive, said:

“It’s good to have more detail on elements of the Elections Bill and we appreciate the UK Government striving for a “sensible and pragmatic timetable”. We however remain concerned about the timeframe involved as well as the potential impacts on voters and electoral professionals.

“The accompanying secondary legislation is needed as soon as possible. The devil is in the detail, and Electoral Registration Officers, Returning Officers and electoral administrators require that detail to properly prepare for, resource and bed in Voter ID, issuing voter cards, registering newly enfranchised overseas voters and more.

“The Minister states that Voter ID and the new Voter Card system are expected to be in place for spring 2023 polls. If the Gould Principle is to be followed, this would mean introduction before the end of this calendar year. That will be challenging.

“For Voter ID to be successfully implemented, urgent work is needed to support local authorities. Clarity is also needed on full resourcing to ensure no financial burden falls locally. The “new burdens funding” referred to by the Minister will need to cover a wide range of changes including: increased polling station staff training on Voter ID and changes to handing in postal votes; more staff to run stations to ensure ID checks do not lead to large queues; and a range of back-office resources.

“The introduction of an online absent vote application service modernises a paper-based system and will help meet the expectations of modern voters. Although welcome, it will be vital to ensure this change does not risk Returning Officers’ ability to deliver. Work must be done to assess the potential impact of this change on both local authorities and commercial suppliers who are often already working at capacity.

“We welcome the Minister’s continued drive to include the electoral community and civic and charitable organisations as the Bill develops to help mitigate risk. We will continue to be a critical friend to ensure the best outcomes for voters and everyone involved in the electoral process.”