Written evidence from Voice4Change England[1] (TEB 24)

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

The Elections Bill inquiry


1.      Overview             

Voice4Change England is disappointed that the government began the 2021 parliamentary session by including, in the Queen’s Speech, plans to require voters to show an approved form of photographic ID at polling stations in UK parliamentary elections in Great Britain and local elections in England. We are deeply concerned about the democratic deficit that this proposed new legislation would cause. The plans call into question the integrity of the electoral process, but there is no evidence to support the government’s claims of widespread electoral fraud. The government should instead endeavour to extend enfranchisement, not put up more barriers for people seeking to exercise their suffrage.

2.      Is there electoral fraud in the UK?

Figure 1: Cases of electoral offences reported

Chart, bar chart

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Source: Uberoi and Johnson, ‘Voter ID’.

Figure 2: Voter fraud: personation allegations and outcomes


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Source: Electoral Commission

When academics have studied electoral fraud in other established democracies, where it is also claimed to be common, they tend to conclude that it is in fact very rare. Accusations of electoral fraud, however, are often thought to be very common because they can be made by politicians seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the winner or to make the case for more restrictive electoral laws, from which they might gain partisan advantage.[6]

3.      Voter ID pilot studies

The ID trials, which occurred in both May 2018 and May 2019, required voters to present personal identification when visiting the polling station - fifteen English local authorities took part over the two trials. The government said that pilot schemes would help to see what the impact would be for voters and electoral administrators, and would help them to decide how to design a scheme that could be used for UK Parliament elections and local elections in England.

         Compared with allegations and verified cases of personation, the number of people turned away in both pilot years is material. The 2018 voter ID pilots saw more than 1,000 voters being turned away for not having the correct form of ID. Of these, around 350 voters did not return to vote. In 2019, around 2,000 people were initially refused a ballot paper, of whom roughly 750 did not return with ID and therefore did not take part in the election. In total, across both sets of pilots, over 1,000 voters did not return to vote after being refused a ballot because they did not have ID.[7]

4.      Access to photographic ID

5.      Sector reaction

6.      Conclusion


August 2021

[1] Voice4Change England (V4CE) is a national advocate for the Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community sector (BMS VCS). As the only national membership organisation dedicated to the BME VCS we speak up to policymakers on the issues that matter to the sector, bring the sector together to share good practice and develop the sector to better meet the needs of communities. BME voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) are a crucial part of civil society.  By supporting the BME VCS we aim to improve the life outcomes for BME and other disadvantaged communities.

[2] Uberoi, E. and Johnston, N. (2021), ‘Voter ID’, House of Commons Library Research Briefing, 12 May, https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9187.

[3] Electoral Commission (2021), ‘2018 electoral fraud data’, 31 March (updated from 23 July 2019), www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/our-views-and-research/our-research/electoral-fraud-data/2018-electoral-fraud-data.

[4] Laville, S. (2005), ‘Judge slates “banana republic” postal voting system’, The Guardian, 5 April, www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/apr/05/politics.localgovernment.

[5] Manthorpe, R. (2019), ‘General election : Evidence shows electoral fraud not a danger to British democracy’, Sky News, 26 November, https://news.sky.com/story/general-election-evidence-shows-electoral-fraud-not-a-danger-to-british-democracy-11867533.

[6] James, T. (2012), Elite statecraft and election administration, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

[7] Manthorpe, ‘General Election’.

[8] Electoral Reform Society (undated), ‘Voter ID: An expensive distraction’, www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/upgrading-our-democracy/voter-id.

[9] Elgot, J. (2020), ‘MPs may have been misled over BAME voter ID claims’, The Guardian, 28 July, www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jul/28/mps-may-have-been-misled-over-bame-voter-id-claims.

[10] Electoral Commission (2015), Delivering and costing a proof of identity scheme for polling station voters in Great Britain, London: Electoral Commission, www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf_file/Proof-of-identity-scheme-updated-March-2016.pdf.

[11] Gov.uk (2020), ‘Driving licences’, Ethnicity Facts and Figures, 16 December, www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/culture-and-community/transport/driving-licences/latest.

[12] Georgiadis, P., Provan, S. and Samson, A. (2019), ‘Brexit: Boris Johnson renews vow that UK will exit EU on October 31 — as it happened’, Financial Times, various dates, www.ft.com/content/11523d82-3b85-3645-a824-9c843ba08ce9.

[13] Cowburn, A. (2021) ‘Government’s mandatory voter ID plans labelled “deeply damaging and exclusionary”’, Independent, 9 March, www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/voter-id-boris-johnson-elections-photo-b1814531.html.

[14] Walker, P. (2021), ‘Using photo ID in British elections will harm democracy, say US civil rights groups’, The Guardian, 28 February, www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/feb/28/using-photo-id-in-british-elections-will-harm-democracy-say-us-civil-rights-groups.

[15] Cabinet Office and Chloe Smith MP (2021), ‘Voter fraud measures announced in the Queen’s speech’, press release, 14 May, www.gov.uk/government/news/voter-fraud-measures-announced-in-the-queens-speech.

[16] Electoral Reform Society (2018), ‘Poll: “Need” for voter ID should be least of our worries, say voters’, 6 June, www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/poll-need-for-voter-id-should-be-least-of-our-worries-say-voters.

[17] ACLU (2017), ‘Fact sheet on voter ID laws’, May, www.aclu.org/other/oppose-voter-id-legislation-fact-sheet.

[18] Electoral Commission (2019), ‘1 in 4 black and Asian voters are not registered to vote, warns the Electoral Commission’, 18 November, www.electoralcommission.org.uk/media-centre/1-4-black-and-asian-voters-are-not-registered-vote-warns-electoral-commission.