Local Liberal Democrats join leading charities to condemn Bromley voter ID pilot

In the upcoming local elections, for the first time ever, Bromley residents will have to produce verifiable ID at polling stations to cast their vote.

The Borough has volunteered to take part in a pilot scheme which, if successful, could see this scheme rolled out across mainland UK. The move follows a Conservative government report which claims such moves are necessary to prevent voter ID fraud.

On the face of it, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. Many other countries insist upon ID before you can vote. Surely people can do the same when voting here?

But here’s the thing – millions of people in the UK don’t have a driving license or a passport. And voter ID fraud in the UK doesn’t actually exist on any meaningful level – a fact acknowledged in the report itself and supported by evidence of criminal allegations made last year (a grand total of 28 out of 45,000,000 votes cast).

It’s also costly to implement as money is spent having to train staff, raise awareness and introduce new systems at polling stations. When the Conservative Government and Council are slashing services and increasing council tax way above inflation, does it seem like a good idea to spend money on a scheme which seeks to solve a problem which doesn’t exist? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on protecting the people of Bromley by building safe pedestrian crossings, or by maintaining a baby health clinic at Beckenham Beacon, for example?

There’s also a more fundamental issue, which is that the harder you make it to vote, the fewer people who do – with that decline concentrated in the least well-off and marginalised pockets of society. Or to put it another way, the people who need the most help from local politics are the very people who will be disenfranchised from it.

In the last Council Meeting I asked a very simple question: how the experimental pilot scheme would be measured with evidence and data. Any first-year secondary school pupil will tell you that measuring experiments is the basis of logical decision making – yet astonishingly, the Conservative Council couldn’t provide an answer. At best, that’s gross negligence. At worst, it’s utter contempt for those affected.

That is why organisations such as Age UK, the Salvation Army, Stonewall, the Electoral Reform Society, Royal National Institute for Blind People and the Race Equality Foundation – amongst dozens of others – have condemned this pilot and are urgently asking the Government to abandon the proposals.

Bromley Liberal Democrats join the call of those organisations – not because voter fraud isn’t a serious issue – but because 1 person in 1,500,000 committing voter fraud is a lesser price to pay than untold and unknown amounts of people not being able to vote legitimately on May 3rd.

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20 Comments

  • What a load of nonsense – sorry. For all the partisan organisations raising this, is there a single voice from anyone actually affected?

    This has been the case in Northern Ireland for years. When applying for the electoral roll you simply fill out an extra page if you need a card to prove identity. http://www.eoni.org.uk/Electoral-Identity-Card/Electoral-Identity-Card-FAQs
    My guess is that it’s one of those things where the change is a big deal but once the change is made it becomes normal very quickly.

    Sensible question over measuring impact, the fact that it’s not just one pilot but trying different options (photo ID vs non-photo ID vs bring polling card) seems encouraging but you’d hope they’d have some evaluation planned in advance.

    In terms of who this will affect, I wouldn’t be so sure it will hurt us. One of the biggest indicators for a Leave vote was not owning a passport. Not exactly LD target voters!

  • It is not just the less well off. How many over 80s have a valid passport or driving licence?

  • I have no photo id

    At all

    And what business of a Polling Clerk is my Bank Statement or Credit Card statement?

  • Asking for a passport before voting is unnecessary, but I always present my polling card even though it’s not asked for. I don’t think it too draconian to ask a potential voter for their polling card or a recent bill with their name and address on it?

    The real threat to the voting process is the explosion of postal votes, which should only be allocated to disabled voters, or persons who can show that they work or study away from home on a regular basis.

  • John Marriott 12th Mar '18 - 1:18pm

    Too many people have postal votes, period. Why not photo ID cards? You know what they were supposed to say in Ulster: “Vote early and vote OFTEN”!

  • paul barker 12th Mar '18 - 1:37pm

    The example of Ulster/NI is irrelevent as no one denies that there has been a long-standing problem with Voter Fraud there. For the resy of us, we saw 28 allegations of Fraud last Year & One prosecution.
    This is a straightforward attempt by The Tories to introduce American techniques of Vote supression.
    I dont understand the references to Postal Voting which seem to have nothing to do with this.
    These “Pilots” have to be fought with every means at our disposal, its a fight for Democracy itself.

  • “Why not photo ID cards? You know what they were supposed to say in Ulster: “Vote early and vote OFTEN”!”

    Finger dye, once you’ve voted?

  • Laurence Cox 12th Mar '18 - 2:00pm

    @Sheila Gee
    “Finger dye, once you’ve voted?”

    That messes up proxy voting for a start. Postal voting is not much use if you go away before the postal vote papers are sent out and do not come back until after polling day.
    Mind you, it would be useful for ‘knocking up’; if they had already voted they could just ‘show you the finger’ 🙂

  • John Marriott 12th Mar '18 - 2:38pm

    Paul Barker, you need to lighten up a bit! ‘Vote supression’, really? As to postal votes, there have been several examples of abuse, such as individuals collecting postal ballots and returning them to polling stations. ‘A fight for democracy itself’? Come one!

  • “I dont understand the references to Postal Voting which seem to have nothing to do with this.”

    The point in the article, is how to I.D. the person who actually votes secretly in the booth, and ensure they don’t return two or more times without an official proxy.

    The inherent flaw in postal votes allows the potential for households with a very strict ‘patriarchal’ structure, to bully and ‘commandeer’ voting forms from family members, thus potentially giving the ‘Household head’, multiple votes, with no way of ascertaining from a returned envelope, whether the actual legitimate voter, actually made their choice wilfully and without duress?

    Laurence Cox

    Maybe two colours of finger dye.? Indigo-index-finger, for my vote, and Middle-finger-Green  for my husband’s proxy vote?

  • Phil Beesley 12th Mar '18 - 3:36pm

    I had to renew my passport before taking a family holiday — including a flight — to Shetland. I needed a passport or equivalent to take a plane within the UK. I was annoyed, but it sort of made sense. Not entirely.

    In 2004, the European Parliament elections in the UK were conducted entirely in some regions by post. I spoiled my postal vote in protest. I didn’t want my vote to be amongst those of the dead; post mortal voters whose identities might have (implausibly?) been stolen. I didn’t think that there was a serious risk of ID theft; I was naffed off that the election organiser failed to consider the seriousness of voting.

    For many of us, voting is about going to a church hall or the like, perhaps walking past a teller. A council official asks us to confirm that we are the person on the polling card — more questions if we don’t turn up with a polling card — before giving a ballot paper. If Jo votes twice — Jo protests that s/he didn’t vote earlier and is given a pink vote — the poor lasses and lads at the count may have to fish out fake-Jo’s ballot.

    That is the brilliance of the process. Anyone can challenge a fake and it makes us think about cheating.

  • A Social Liberal 12th Mar '18 - 4:19pm

    John Marriott

    “there have been several examples of abuse”. How do you know this, apart from the 28 highlighted earlier? Can you name those involved or are you speaking from a position of hearsay?

  • John Marriott 12th Mar '18 - 8:43pm

    @A Social Liberal
    Check out a Newark Town Council By-election some years ago, when, following a derisory turnout, the result was determined by a large number of postal votes collected and delivered to the count by the agent of the successful candidate. Sheila Gee cites other potential examples, which I would class as abuse. You may disagree.

  • William Fowler 13th Mar '18 - 8:04am

    I live in a Tory stronghold where there is no point trying to game the system A week or two before the election most of the rough sleepers disappeared and returned about a week afterwards. Were they moved en masse to a marginal area to game the votes in favour of a certain party… is this even illegal.

  • We in Liverpool had had massive problems with voter personation over the years especially in the militant years. See Chris Rennard’s new book. It is naive to think it is not an acute problem in marginal seats.

  • OnceALibDem 13th Mar '18 - 8:55am

    “Check out a Newark Town Council By-election some years ago, when, following a derisory turnout, the result was determined by a large number of postal votes collected and delivered to the count by the agent of the successful candidate. ”

    They shouldn’t have been accepted. The law is completely clear on this. Had they been returned to a polling station whilst it was open they could be but it it would be a flagrant breach of the postal vote code of conduct.

    If people want to tackle vote fraud they need to tackle postal voting. Personation is and always has been comparatively rare but hard to identify as a typical course of events would be:
    Voter (mid 20s) turns up purporting to be Mr A
    Polling agent says, “that’s not Mr A – I know Mr A and he’s an elderly gentleman”
    Voter disappears muttering about getting ID and coming back never to be seen again.

    In the absence of a police officer not much can be done.

    As is highlighted above this is different to Northern Ireland where the law change ran side by side with a process for a voting ID card for those who needed it.

  • @paul barker
    “”””This is a straightforward attempt by The Tories to introduce American techniques of Vote supression.””””

    Firstly, hardly an “American” technique. Almost all of continental Europe absolutely requires some sort of ID to vote.

    And in the US, it is a bit more complex. Only a minority of states have ‘strict’ rules on voting with ID, strict being if you don’t have ID, you vote on a provisional ballot, which is kept aside and is validated once the voter has returned with acceptable ID (including after the close of poll). It should also be noted that a lot of states allow registration to vote at the polling station on election day at the time of voting, so ID is an important safeguard for this process. Some places don’t have any registration or electoral roll at all, you just show up to vote with the documents that show you are resident.

  • To the author

    Would you oppose a requirement to bring the polling card or something with your name and address on it?

  • Mick Taylor 13th Mar '18 - 5:33pm

    One of the reasons voter fraud is not pursued is because it is costly and difficult to do so. A few years ago my wife narrowly lost an election in Leeds and there was clear evidence of voter fraud.
    1. Pink ballot papers were issued. This means that some voters went to the polling station to be told they had already voted, but insisted they hadn’t and were able to cast their votes on the pink voting paper. (These are only counted in pursuance of an investigation into the validity of the result) This indicates a strong possibility of personation.
    2. A polling district in which we had been comfortably ahead for three years was lost and we later discovered that a substantial number of people who had not voted for years had suddenly voted in quite large numbers. This explained why a large group of Labour canvassers had descended on that area. Not to get people to vote, but to find out who wasn’t voting and then vote for them.
    3. Someone went round collecting postal votes from people intending to vote for us and their votes mysteriously vanished.
    So why was this not pursued? If you want to get an electoral court to sit, you have to put down £20k before they will, allegedly to stop frivolous complaints and to cover the costs if you lose.
    So whilst I don’t believe that voter fraud is widespread everywhere, I do think it happens especially in big cities where wards have huge electorates and on a much wider scale than the so-called investigations have found.
    I also believe that the integrity of elections is very important and that requiring ID is neither draconian nor excessive. Almost every democracy apart from the England, Scotland and Wales requires ID and I think the wilder claims in this post are scaremongering. As TPFKAR rightly points out, a simple system for voter ID has been in use in Northern Ireland for some time with no noticeable effects on turnout.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Mar '18 - 3:22pm

    The idea that “voter ID fraud in this country is not a significant problem” is nonsense. Of course few cases get to court – it’s almost impossible to do so (and as I know too well you can present a mass of detailed evidence to the police and they will find it too difficult to deal with for a host of reasons). At both polling stations and even more so with postal votes. But in the Lords we opposed compulsory ID at polling stations unless the returning officer (local council) has a duty to issue a photo ID free of charge to anyone who askes for one.

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