UK voters will soon have to bring ID to polling stations - but is it a good thing?

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 8:25 am
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 8:25 am
The move has been criticised by members of the Labour party (Photo: Shutterstock)

Citizens who wish to vote in UK elections will have to bring photo ID to polling stations from as early as 2023 under new government plans.

The change to voting is planned as part of new measures under the Electoral Integrity Bill, which aims to crack down on voter fraud.

The bill will be presented to MPs in the coming months, and though no firm date has been set for the ID policy, it's expected that the new rule will be in place by the time of the 2023 May elections.

Additional changes under the bill include an extension to the 15 year cap on voting for UK residents abroad. Expats will, instead, be able to take part in voting indefinitely.

What are the current rules about voting and ID?

Currently, voters are able to turn up at a polling station and vote without ID, giving only their name and address.

Under new rules, voters will have to bring photo ID, like a driving licence, to polling stations. Those without such ID will still be able to vote, on the condition that they contact their local council prior to polling day to confirm their identity.

The announcement of an ID requirement has been controversial, with some saying that the move will disbar some people from voting.

In May 2018 and 2019 the Government tested out an ID requirement for local elections which led to hundreds (an estimated two per cent) being turned away from voting.

Currently, around three million people are estimated to have no form of photo ID, with ethnic minority groups particularly over-represented in this figure.

'These plans will make it harder for many people to vote'

Cat Smith, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Democracy, said of the move: “It doesn't matter how the government dresses it up, these plans will make it harder for working class, older and Black people to vote.

“Giving people a say at the ballot box helps make our democratic country what it is, and we must not do anything to undermine that."

The Government insists, however, that people will be able to confirm their identity free of charge even without the most common forms of photo ID like a passport.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson commented: “We will be introducing new measures, as part of the Government's manifesto commitment, to prevent the potential for voter fraud in our electoral system. 

"This will further strengthen the integrity of UK elections and will include ID checks at the polling station and rules that prevent abuse of postal and proxy votes."