The Tories have been accused of a “calculated effort” to “make voting harder” for millions of Brits.
Currently you do not need to show ID to vote in elections in England, Wales and Scotland.
But pilot schemes will be in place at five councils in the local elections in England on May 3 – Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking.
What ID is needed to vote in the pilot scheme
The acceptable form of ID has been set by the councils – but the government want to trial demanding photo ID as part of the pilot.
:: Swindon and Woking – Photo ID, such as a driving licence or bus pass
:: Watford – Photo ID or a valid debit or credit card
:: Bromley – Two forms of ID, including one with your address on
:: Gosport – Two forms of ID, including one with your address on. You can also apply for an “electoral identity letter”, which costs nothing, from the Gosport Borough Council website.
Is in-person voter fraud a thing?
Not as far as anyone can tell.
Out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there were just 28 cases of alleged in-person voter fraud – the kind that would be prevented by requiring ID to vote.
That amounts to one case per 1,600,000 votes cast – or 0.00000063% of the total votes cast.
In a paper when the trial was announced, the Electoral Commission admitted certain groups of the population were less likely to have acceptable forms of ID.
They include young people, people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, women and the elderly.
They suggested this problem could be solved by introducing a free ‘voter card’, which citizens would have to apply for before casting their ballot – at a cost to the country of up to £11 million.
The scale of in person voter fraud in 2017
What the Electoral Reform Society says
The Electoral Reform Society has condemned the radical new plans to force voters to prove their identity before casting their ballot.
The ERS branded the reforms “deeply flawed” and said personification fraud – where someone votes while pretending to be someone else – is “incredibly rare” and the introduction of mandatory voter ID “poses more problems than solutions”.
ERS chief executive Darren Hughes said: “It’s hard not to see this as a calculated effort by the government to make voting harder for some citizens.
“As such it’s vital we think about the risks these changes pose to a free and fair franchise in the UK. We need policy based on hard facts – not rumour and innuendo.
“With millions of people lacking the right photographic ID – and no government plans for a universal, free alternative – this can only mean another barrier for honest voters.
“The government know this, which makes this policy all the more concerning.”
The ERS is part of a coalition of charities and campaign groups opposed to the change including Age UK, Stonewall, Liberty and the Salvation Army.
Mr Hughes added: “These deeply flawed trials must not be a fait accompli for the government’s plan to roll-out an ill-thought policy.
“Mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’s time for an evidence-based approach instead.”
What Labour says
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Forcing voters at election time to prove their identity at polling stations by producing official documents would have a disproportionate impact on people from black and ethnic minority communities.
“It is the same hostile environment all over again, shutting our fellow citizens out of public life, treating communities who made Britain their home as second-class citizens.
“It’s disgraceful and it must be brought to an end.”
Cat Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs said:
“This Government is determined to undermine our democracy.
“The introduction of voter ID in polling stations is one of the most dramatic changes to our voting system ever.
“It is deeply concerning that the Government has ignored multiple warnings that these pilots will have a disproportionate impact on various groups, such as ethnic minority communities, older people, transgender people, people with disabilities.
“Labour wants everyone’s voice to be heard at the local elections, no matter someone’s background, which is why we are calling on the government to abandon these damaging pilots.”
What the Tories say
In the Commons last Monday, Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith defended the plans and said no one will need to buy new ID documents to be able to vote.
She told MPs: “We already ask that people prove who they are in order to claim benefits, to rent a car or even to collect a parcel from the Post Office, so this is a proportionate and reasonable approach.
“Democracy is precious and it is right to take that more robust approach to protect the integrity of the electoral process.”
New strict voter ID laws introduced in some US states ahead of the 2016 election resulted in a stark drop in minority turnout.
What has happened in the US?
Research by the LA Times showed that the racial turnout gap doubled or tripled in states with strict voter ID laws.
People from Latino communities were 7.1% less likely to vote if they had to show ID.
The draconian measures were pushed through by Republicans in the United States despite research showing voter fraud was essentially nonexistant.
Between 2000 and 2014 there were 31 credible instances of voter fraud in the United States out of more than a billion votes cast.
What about what happened in Tower Hamlets?
There was a significant case of voting fraud in Tower Hamlets in 2016. But that was postal fraud.
There are also three pilots planned to crack down on postal voting fraud, which is much more common than in-person fraud.
But these five pilots are nothing to do with that, and will have no effect on reducing it.