LONDON: Voters in trial areas will be required to show proof of identification before casting their ballot, in an attempt to eliminate electoral fraud. Pilots of the ID scheme will be carried out at a number of polling stations across England in the local elections in 2018, before a decision is taken on whether to roll out the measure for the whole country. Meanwhile, election officials and police will be given new powers to tackle intimidation of voters by activists. And political activists will be banned from collecting postal votes for submission, a practice known as “harvesting”. The reforms were among recommendations contained in a report in August by former cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles, which was commissioned amid growing concerns about electoral fraud, including the mayoral ballot in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, which was overturned in 2015 over a number of corrupt and illegal practices. Constitution minister Chris Skidmore said: “The Government’s view is that electoral fraud is unacceptable on any level. I want to protect the right of everyone to have their say and participate in our democracy. “That is why the new measures we are announcing today will protect anyone who is at risk of being bullied, undermined or tricked out of their vote – and their democratic right.
“By eliminating fraud and tackling improper practices, we are ensuring the integrity of our electoral system while building a clear and secure democracy that works for everyone.” Under the new rules, electors in the chosen pilot areas will be required to bring ID to prove who they are before voting, as already happens in Northern Ireland. Different council areas will trial different types of photo ID including driving licences, passports or utility bills to prove addresses. The Government has ruled out the creation of a new form of photo ID for voting. If successful, the measure – long supported by the independent Electoral Commission – could be introduced for general elections and other polls. The Government will also consider measures for nationality checking that will prevent fraudulent voter registrations. And reforms to improve the security of the postal ballot system will include requiring postal voters to re-apply every three years; demanding legal proof for requests for a waiver from giving a signature for a postal vote; and extending offences protecting the secrecy of the ballot to cover postal votes.