A secure electoral system is vital to a healthy democracy, and the public must have confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century. I firmly believe that asking voters to bring photographic identification to their polling station is an important way of achieving this.
Identification to vote has been backed by the Electoral Commission and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which state that its absence is a security risk. Without a requirement for identification at the polling station, it is harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel at a post office than it is to vote in someone else’s name.
In Northern Ireland, voters have been required to produce personal identification before voting in polling stations since 1985, with photographic identification introduced in 2003 by the last Labour Government. Ministers at the time noted that “the Government have no intention of taking away people’s democratic right to vote. If we believed that thousands of voters would not be able to vote because of this measure, we would not be introducing it at this time.” I believe it is absolutely right that the Government stamps out the potential for voter fraud and brings the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland.
Showing identification to prove who they are is something people of all walks of life already do every day. A wide range of photographic identification documents will be accepted at the polling station, and the Voter Authority Certificate was created so that anyone without identification can apply for a free new one from their local authority. I have been assured that the Government will continue to raise awareness of the Voter Authority Certificate.
You can find a full list of the accepted identification documents here:
You can find out how to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate to use in future elections and referendums, using the following link:
The May 2023 local elections saw the implementation of two new Elections Act policies: the requirement for voter identification and enhanced support for disabled voters. I recognise that a great deal of work was undertaken by Returning Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and their electoral services teams to deliver the polls, and I am grateful for their efforts in ensuring a smooth delivery of these new measures.
I do agree about the importance of the numerous independent reports which have been produced into the impact of voter identification and the Government is committed in legislation to conducting further evaluations of the voter identification policy at the next two UK Parliamentary general election
The Government is grateful to the Electoral Commission for its report on the May 2023 elections and I am also pleased that the Electoral Commission found that the polls in May were well run, with 90 per cent of voters satisfied with the voting process.
I join Ministers in welcoming the Commission’s finding that 99.75 per cent of voters in polling stations were able to successfully cast their vote under the new voter identification regulations. However, the Government has been clear that there is always room to learn and has carefully considered and responded to all of the Commission's recommendations.
I am told that the Government will also reflect on the independent IFF Research report’s recommendations for ongoing improvements. It is worth noting that many of the report’s recommendations relate to the work of Returning Officers, Electoral Registration Officers, their electoral service teams, the Electoral Commission and other partners, but I have been assured that the Government will continue to provide support.