14 May 2024
Voter Identification

A secure electoral system is vital to a healthy democracy, and the public must have confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century. I believe asking voters to bring photographic identification to their polling station is an important way of achieving this. 

Identification to vote has been backed by the Electoral Commission and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which state that its absence is a security risk. Without a requirement for identification at the polling station, it is harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel at a post office than it is to vote in someone else’s name. 

In Northern Ireland voters have been required to produce personal identification before voting in polling stations since 1985, with photographic identification introduced in 2003 by the last Labour Government. Ministers at the time noted that “the Government have no intention of taking away people’s democratic right to vote. If we believed that thousands of voters would not be able to vote because of this measure, we would not be introducing it at this time.” I believe it is absolutely right that the Government stamps out the potential for voter fraud and brings the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland.

Showing identification to prove who they are is something people of all walks of life already do every day. A wide range of photographic identification documents will be accepted at the polling station, and the Voter Authority Certificate was created so that anyone without identification can apply for a free new one from their local authority. I have been assured that the Government will continue to raise awareness of the Voter Authority Certificate. 

You can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate to use in future elections and referendums, using the following link: https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-photo-id-voter-authority-certificate.


Approved types of photographic identification -

The Elections Act 2022 sets out a wide range of photographic identification documents which can be used to vote at the polling station. This includes a UK passport or a passport issued by an EEA state or a Commonwealth country. A driving licence or provisional driving licence granted in Great Britain or Northern Ireland will also be accepted. Expired forms of identification will be accepted as long as the photograph is a good enough likeness.

You can find a full list of the accepted identification documents here: https://www.gov.uk/how-to-vote/photo-id-youll-need.

Call to update the list of approved identification -

Ministers have always been clear that the list of accepted identification needs to strike the right balance between security and accessibility. It must also be manageable for staff in polling stations. Following the local elections in May 2023, the Government undertook a review of the list of accepted forms of identification, with the intention of identifying and exploring any further possible additions. From these considerations, the Government has said it has been unable to identify any additions that would succeed in significantly increasing coverage, both in the groups identified as having the highest proportions of people without an accepted form of identification and more generally. 

I have been assured that the Government remains committed to regularly reviewing the list of accepted photographic identification, and will legislate accordingly if suitable additions are found. The Government will also continue raising awareness of the Voter Authority Certificate which was created so that anyone without identification has the option to apply for a free new one from their local authority.

Calls to Include NHS ID as Approved Identification -

The Government reviewed the list of accepted identification as part of the wider evaluation of the impact and implementation of voter identification at the May 2023 local elections in England. It concluded that, at this time, there are no suitable additions to be made to this list.

Research by the Government and the Electoral Commission has shown consistently that the vast majority of the electorate (96 per cent) hold a form of photographic identification that is on the existing list. As such it is likely that a similar percentage of the holders of any potential additional document will already also hold another document that is on the current list and therefore already accepted, consequently any addition would not be able to significantly increase coverage. Therefore, NHS ID was not approved at this time. 

Accessibility (disabled people) -

I firmly agree with you that the voter identification process should be as accessible as possible. A wide range of forms of photographic identification will be accepted. Expired identification will be accepted so long as the photo is of a good enough likeness. The Voter Authority Certificate was created so that anyone without identification can apply for a free new one from their local authority. In addition to applying on GOV UK, there is also the option to apply by post or in person. The Voter Authority Certificate application form is available in easy read and large print. 

I have been assured that the Government will continue to engage with civil society organisations on this matter. I also understand that the Electoral Commission has made available bespoke resources to support people with disabilities with the new photographic identification requirements. 

Evidence to support requiring identification at polling stations -

I appreciate your concerns about identification at polling stations, however I must stress that introducing identification to vote was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment in 2019. The Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Electoral Commission both expressed concern about the previous system and recommended the use of identification at polling stations. Indeed, in 2014, the Electoral Commission recommended that voters should be required to show identification at the polling station to "tighten up the security of the voting process".

In addition, a report published by Sir, now Lord, Eric Pickles in 2016 recommended the introduction of providing identification before voting. The report acknowledged that the number of allegations was low and cases of prosecution were rare. It also explained, however, that the significant vulnerability highlighted by expert organisations and the fact that 80 per cent of the registered electorate vote at polling stations gave rise to a risk that needed to be addressed.

I would also like to stress that the act of assuming the identity of another person with the intention to deceive, known as personation, is very difficult to prove and prosecute. There are, however, frequent anecdotal reports of personation, including during the 2021 local elections. Cases of voter fraud are often only uncovered when the real voter subsequently tries to vote, which is why voter identification is so important - it virtually eliminates the risk of personation occurring in the first place.

Cost of implementing voter identification -

I firmly support the introduction of voter identification at the polling station as a sensible and proportionate way to strengthen the integrity of our elections. Voter identification has operated successfully in Northern Ireland for almost two decades without excessive costs. Rightly, the Government wants to do this properly to ensure no one is deprived of their vote: which requires some initial spending on publicity and awareness, and setting up the new free Voter Authority Certificates.

I understand that the estimated costs are equivalent to £35,800 per local authority each year. It is anticipated that initial costs will fall over time, as voters become familiar with the arrangements. The Government is funding councils’ additional costs under the 'new burdens’ principle, so there is no cost to local taxpayers. Holding elections and democracy does have a price – but electoral fraud threatens to discredit our entire democracy if tolerated.

Implications for Postal Voting -

The requirement to show photographic identification will apply when voting in person at polling stations. I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to enhancing the security of postal voting and has set out plans to introduce an identity check for all applications for an absent vote - which could be a postal vote or a proxy vote. I understand that these changes will apply to applications made on paper and online and will bring the absent vote application process in line with the process for individual electors to register to vote in an election. Alongside this, the Elections Act 2022 introduced a new requirement to re-apply for a postal vote at least every three years, replacing the current five-year signature and date of birth refresh.