North Kesteven set to pioneer voter ID system

Local election count in North Kesteven - soon electors will need to show ID to prove they are eligible to vote. EMN-181221-145721001
Local election count in North Kesteven - soon electors will need to show ID to prove they are eligible to vote. EMN-181221-145721001

Electors within North Kesteven will be early pioneers testing ways to make voting more secure against potential fraud.

District councillors approved on Tuesday for the authority to be one of 11 councils working with the Government to pilot Voter ID trials at the local elections on May 2, 2019.

This is an initial stage towards the intended national rollout of the need for all electors to present some form of identification at the next scheduled General Election.

The aim is to safeguard against electoral fraud and misrepresentation, which is not known to be a problem within North Kesteven, but the area’s characteristics are said to make it an ideal test-bed for Voter ID within a sparsely-populated rural area with a growing, but ageing population.

Within North Kesteven, on May 2 all electors using a polling station will need to present one form of photographic ID (such as a passport or photo driver’s licence) or two types of non-photographic ID (such as a utility bill and poll card). This will not apply to postal voters.

An extensive publicity campaign will ensure all 89,000 electors are aware of the change and which types of ID are acceptable. No other part of Lincolnshire is affected by this requirement other than voters within North Kesteven district.

Elections Returning Officer, council chief executive Ian Fytche who is overseeing the pilot, said: “For North Kesteven we have opted to trial the ‘Mixed ID’ model which gives the broadest range of possible forms of identification to ensure no-one is disenfranchised.

He said most people have an accepted form of photo ID already. “Where they don’t, they have the opportunity to choose two other forms of ID, one of which must have their address on. This could be the poll card we issue to everyone in advance, or a Council Tax Bill which every household will receive in March.

“There will be lots of options presented, and we will also be offering people the chance to have a specific form of electoral identity created especially for this election to ensure no-one misses out.

“Being a part of 2019’s trials presents a valuable opportunity for a progressive and forward-thinking council such as ours to explore the challenges and possibilities presented by Voter ID and to assess its implications for areas similar to our own in terms of the of the demographic profile of the local electorate”.

Coun Leader, Coun Richard Wright added: “Although we are not aware of any incidence of electoral fraud within our area, for me the principle is around securing the integrity of an individual’s vote and removing the potential for fraud to occur, so that everyone can be confident in the democratic process and ensure fair representation.

“As a council which greatly values active participation and dialogue with its electorate, I hope that people will appreciate the measures we are taking to explore opportunities to tighten the system and remove risks and opportunities for fraudulent representation to occur.

“Ultimately, with the co-operation of our residents, we will be able to provide further insight to the Government into how best to secure the voting process.”

Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith MP said: “People are already required to show ID to pick up a parcel from the Post Office, rent a car, or apply for benefits and this is a common sense next step.”

In 2018, five councils trialled Voter ID at local elections with positive results.