Poll shows voter ID is low on list of voters' concerns

By agency reporter
June 7, 2018

The public say the 'need' for voter ID – as trialled by the government in five areas last month – should be the least of Britain's concerns when it comes to democracy, according to polling by BMG Research.

When presented with 12 options on problems with British democracy – based on Harvard University's 'Perceptions of Electoral Integrity' survey – voters see mandatory ID as one of their least concerns, according to the poll for the Electoral Reform Society. Balanced media coverage, regulated campaign activities and a limit on big donors were among the options.
The research was published to coincide with the Westminster Hall debate on 6 June 2018 on the government's voter ID plans. ?It comes as legal opinion from Blackstone Chambers, seen by the Electoral Reform Society, claims the ID trials held in May could have been illegal, with ministers acting beyond their lawful powers.

The research shows the need for "polling station votes [to be] protected by additional identity checks" ranks the second lowest democratic priority for voters – with only "constituency boundaries are free from political influence" ranking lower among people's priorities.

Among the issues which voter ID ranked below were "[ensuring] the voting register is accurate (no fraudulent entries)" – with 56 per cent ranking it as important – balanced media coverage with 52 per cent, ensuring elections are kept free from the influence of financial donors with 48 per cent, and tightening postal vote security with 44 per cent.

When asked what they felt was the single most important option, just four per cent of respondents chose "polling stations [should be] protected by additional identity checks", tying with "postal votes are secure from undue influence" and "all political parties have fair access to elections". Again, voter ID was the second least important concern, beaten only by "[ensuring] constituency boundaries are free from political influence."

Three options received more than 10 per cent: "election campaigns are free from the influence of large financial donors" scoring highest at 17 per cent, "media coverage of the election is balanced" with 13 per cent, followed by "the voting register is accurate (no fraudulent entries)" with 16per cent.

Improving voting register accuracy was a key goal of Individual Electoral Registration, and would likely be improved by having a single national electoral register – leaving financial donors the largest undealt-with question about UK elections.

Jess Garland, Director of Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: "Voters know where the real problems are in our democracy – not in the handful of voter fraud cases each year, but in a broken Westminster system.

"The government's draconian ID scheme unfairly places all the burden on blameless voters – rather than the government – to ensure we have an effective and transparent political system. Instead, we need to be looking at the bigger issues – like the fact that one in five feel forced to vote 'tactically' at elections rather than for their first choice, that there is a spending arms race when it comes to our elections, and that our voter registration system needs hauling into the 21st century. The public do not view imposing voter ID as a priority – in fact, quite the opposite.

"The question has to be asked: why is the government pushing ahead with imposing voter ID, when the public do not view it as necessary? Given voters' legitimate concerns over how our parties are funded, this move looks increasingly like a red herring – a distraction given the myriad problems with our political system.

"Given that there was just one prosecution last year for the type of voter fraud ID aims to prevent, there is not a shred of evidence to justify imposing this policy on the public.

"Now the government must rethink this draconian policy – and address the very pressing concerns the public have over out-of-control party spending, voter registration and fair election coverage."

* Read the Electoral Reform Society’s briefing on the voter ID trials here

* Electoral Reform Society https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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