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Urgent question on voter ID pilots ahead of local elections

10 April 2019 (updated on 10 April 2019)

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Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, asked the Government to make a statement on the voter ID trials ahead of local election in 2019.

Voters in ten local authorities will be required to show different forms of ID before they can vote at local elections in 2019. This is part of an ongoing process aiming to reduce the risk of voter fraud and ensure vote security.

Chloe Smith MP, Cabinet Office Parliamentary Secretary, said

"The voter ID pilots, which are supported by the independent Electoral Commission, is a reasonable way to ensure that voter ID works for everybody ahead of a national roll out.

"Showing ID is something that people of all backgrounds already do every day, when we take out a library book, claim benefits or pick up a parcel from the post office.[...] I can reassure the House that both last-year's pilots and the decades of experience of Northern Ireland show that voter ID does not have an adverse effect on voter turnout, or participation, and furthermore the Government has consulted a range of civil society groups to ensure that voter ID will work for everybody.

"Crucially local authorities will provide alternative methods of ID free of charge to electors who do not have a specified form of ID, which ensures that everybody who is registered to vote has the opportunity to vote."

Responding, Cat Smith said;

"These schemes have been a focus of significant controversy. At last year's local elections where there were five pilot areas, the Minister appeared to celebrate the fact that at least 350 citizens were excluded from voting for not having valid ID, and these included people who had voted very legitimately for their entire lives."


Five local authorities carried out voter ID pilot schemes during the 2018 local elections, with the Government announcing twelve further pilots for 2019. Each local authority will test one of four models of voter ID checks in their pilot:

  • Pendle, East Staffordshire and Woking - voters will be asked to show photo ID before they are given their ballot papers.
  • Ribble Valley, Broxtowe, Derby, North Kesteven and Braintree - voters will be required to present either one form of photo ID or up to two forms of non-photo ID.
  • Mid Sussex, Watford and North West Leicestershire will test using poll cards as a means of identification.
  • Peterborough and Pendle will run a separate postal vote pilot.

The pilots are designed to investigate which ID methods work best for voters.

Northern Ireland has required paper ID to vote since 1985 and photo ID since 2003, without a reducing turnout or participation.

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