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Voter ID: Electoral Participation

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

What recent assessment the Committee has made on the potential effect of proposed voter ID laws on electoral participation. (903195)

The commission’s independent evaluation of the Government’s pilots held in 2018 and 2019 found that a large majority of people already had access to the forms of ID that were used in these pilots. There was no evidence that levels of turnout in the pilot scheme areas were significantly affected by the requirement for voters to show ID at polling stations. However, the commission was not able to draw a definitive conclusion from the pilots about the impact of a voter ID requirement, particularly for a national poll with high levels of turnout. The sociodemographic profiles of the pilot areas are also not fully representative of many areas of Great Britain. The commission has recommended that any ID requirements should be secure, accessible and realistically deliverable. The detail of the Government’s proposals for a free, locally issued voter ID card will be key to ensuring that those who do not have another form of photo ID can vote.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. He knows that in the 2019 general election there were over 47 million people registered to vote and only six convictions for electoral fraud—a rate of less than 0.00001%. He knows that there are fears that mandatory voter ID could suppress turnout and discourage voting in some communities. I do not want that, he does not want that, and I do not believe any MP wants to exclude people from voting. With that in mind, will he tell the House what more the Electoral Commission is doing to try to increase participation and turnout in elections?

Increasing participation is one of the Electoral Commission’s core missions. It tells me that it undertakes significant public awareness activity ahead of major polls to ensure that voters can understand how to participate and have their say with confidence. This May, the period of its voter registration campaign, saw over 1 million applications to register across Great Britain, breaking its targets. If the voter ID requirement is passed into law, the commission will be responsible for new public awareness activity to ensure that voters can understand the new requirements. This would significantly focus on audiences least likely to have the required identification and so most likely to need access to the proposed free voter card.