Brits will need to show photo ID to vote in general elections under new law

British voters will have to show photo ID if they want to cast their ballots in future general elections, ministers are set to announce.

The proposal is set to be included in the Queen’s speech on Tuesday as part of new measures to tackle voting fraud.

But former Tory cabinet minister David Davis has called the multimillion-pound plan “pointless” and “unnecessary”, describing it as an “illiberal solution in pursuit of a non-existent problem”.

Civil liberties groups and race equality campaigns have also expressed concerns about the proposal, which they fear could deter thousands of lower income and ethnic minority voters from voting.

Rules will also be tightened on absent voting and voter intimidation.

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A voter carries his passport as photo ID outside a polling station
A voter brings his passport to a polling station in the 2018 local election in Woking

The photo ID proposal was first raised by Mr Johnson’s Government in October 2019, but it so far has not become law.

It is expected to be included in an Elections Integrity Bill during the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday, the Independent reported.

Tory MP and former Brexit secretary Mr Davis told the news website that voters should not be required to show ID at polling stations.

He said: “There’s no evidence that I’m aware of that there is a problem with voter fraud at polling stations.

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“If you’ve got an ID card, you’re putting a barrier in the way of people to exercise their own democratic rights, which is not necessary and shouldn’t be there.

“It’s pointless, it’s a waste of time, it’s a waste ministerial effort and as I say it’s an illiberal solution in pursuit of a non-existent problem. And it will be expensive… for nothing.”

Shadow democracy minister Cat Smith said the proposal addresses a problem that does not exist.

In 2019, police investigated 595 cases of alleged voter fraud, according to the latest figures from the Electoral Commission.

Voters arrive at a polling station
At a voter arrives at a polling station in London during last week’s local elections

Of those cases, four led to a conviction and two people were given a police caution.

Two years ago, the Electoral Commission concluded the UK has “low levels of proven electoral fraud” and there is “no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud”.

Critics of the plan say about a quarter of voters – often younger people – do not have either a passport or driving licence, the Guardian reported.

Previously, the Government said people would be able to obtain a voting ID card from their local council before an election.

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However, early trials during local elections in May 2019 led to more than 800 voters being turned away, the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) reported.

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Other measures set to be announced include include a ban on postal vote harvesting by limiting the number of votes a person can hand in at a polling station on behalf of others.

Voter intimidation is also expected to be listed as a form of undue influence in law, in order to prevent people from being coerced into giving up control over their vote.

Minister for the constitution and devolution, Chloe Smith, said: “Stealing someone’s vote is stealing their voice. Fraud, and the intent to intimidate or coerce a voter, are crimes.

“So this Government is stamping out the space for such damage to take place in our elections.”


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