Westminster Column: Ensuring democratic integrity

13th January 2017

The democracy we enjoy in our country has been hard won over centuries. But it is not something we can idly expect never to be changed and improved. So we held a referendum on the voting system in 2011, to offer a more proportional system for national elections, which the public comprehensively rejected. But we also need to look at the integrity of our elections. Sadly, even in this country, there are those who seek to undermine the democratic process - the electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets in 2014 was the worst recent example.

So some alternative proposals were set out in December, outlining a number of measures designed to combat electoral fraud. This includes pilot schemes to trial the use of ID in polling stations. 

During the pilots, local authorities will trial different types of identification, including photo identification like driving licenses and passports, or formal correspondence such as a utilities bill. If successful, the measure could be introduced for general elections and other polls, which the independent Electoral Commission has long called for. 

Alongside voter ID proposals, a number of recommendations were made to reduce intimidation and undue influence on voters, end dubious postal vote harvesting, and consider the prospect of nationality checks to ensure only those eligible register to vote. 

Regrettably, though somewhat predictably, those on the left are opposing these pilots. I believe any amount of electoral fraud is unacceptable. So asking voters to present ID for one of the most important and inclusive decisions we can take as citizens (as we do to collect parcels from the Post Office, or buy alcohol or tobacco) is not an unreasonable ask. Northern Irish voters already require ID to vote - so this is not a wholly new proposition for the United Kingdom. 

These pilot schemes for voter ID are intended to be introduced for the local elections in March 2018, so will not affect the Ludlow Constituency, where local elections take place this May. 

I encourage all residents in South Shropshire, of whatever political persuasion, to make sure you are registered to vote in Shropshire Council and town or parish council elections this year. Democratic engagement is a powerful tool we all possess to ensure our views and heard. 
 

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