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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

The hon. Member for City of Chester, representing the Speakers Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Voter ID: Electoral Fraud

What assessment the commission has made of the adequacy of the data on electoral fraud used in support of Government proposals to introduce voter ID. (903194)

The commission collects and annually publishes data from all UK police forces on allegations of electoral fraud. The data show that the UK has low levels of proven fraud. In 2019, police forces across the UK recorded 34 cases of alleged personation in polling stations, which resulted in one conviction and one police caution. Cases of electoral fraud that are not reported to the police will not be captured in that data. The commission has no reliable method to estimate how much electoral fraud goes unreported.

If the data show low levels, it is curious that the commission should have concluded that some measure of voter identification was necessary. May I ask the hon. Member to convey to the commission the view that, in fact, a rather more robust and substantial data gathering exercise is required before the case can truly be said to be made for changes in voter identification?

I will indeed convey that. The commission has highlighted that polling station voting in Great Britain remains vulnerable to fraud since there are no checks in place to prevent somebody from claiming to be an elector and voting in their name. That distinguishes voting at polling stations from other parts of the electoral process where identity checks already exist, such as voter registration and postal voting. The commission’s public opinion research shows that this issue concerns voters, but I will pass on the right hon. Member’s view to the commission.

Voter ID: Electoral Participation

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.