Key figure used to justify controversial Voter ID pilots rapped by official statistics watchdog

Posted on the 2nd May 2018

  • For more information or to arrange an interview/further comment, contact or call 020 3743 6064
  • The Electoral Reform Society will be publishing further analysis of the voter ID trials as well as general commentary on the local elections
  • “Voters Locked Out: The Risks of Voter ID in England” is available to read here

One of the key pieces of evidence used to support the need for the Government’s voter ID pilots has been discredited by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA).

Swindon Council cited the figure which states electoral fraud through voter impersonation more than doubled between 2014 and 2016. This figure appears to have been first referenced by the Government and has since been repeated by the five councils taking part in the trial.

While the statistic is accurate – a rise from 21 cases in 2014 to 44 in 2016 – the Cabinet Office failed to mention that the number of allegations then fell by more than a third in 2017, to 28.

A voter who complained about the use of the figure by Swindon Council also argued the dataset was tiny and that the rise in cases was counteracted by the fact more than twice as many votes were cast in 2016 than in 2014, because of the EU referendum.

They received an email response from the UKSA which said the presentation of the figure was “misleading.”

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The government has no evidence to support its mandatory voter ID plans. That is more clear than ever when they push highly misleading statistics – ones which have now been denounced by the official statistics body. It is right that ministers are being held to account over these trials’ dodgy foundations.

“Ministers are grasping at straws, and their draconian push to make ordinary voters show their papers before using their right to vote now looks desperate. The government must stop trying to trick voters and come clean.

“Last year there were just 28 allegations of ‘personation’ in polling stations – the type of fraud voter ID seeks to address – out of nearly 45 million votes cast. That makes this policy a sledgehammer to crack a nut – particularly when our respected legal system is more than equipped to deal with the issue.

“This is the latest sign that these trials are ill thought-out, and raise serious concerns for our democracy. These poorly researched trials must not be a ‘fait accompli’ to justify a national roll-out of voter ID.”

Voter ID trials are taking place in Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon.

Each of the participating boroughs has different identification requirements which are set out in full on each council’s website.

The Electoral Reform Society has published an extensive analysis of the trials which analysed international evidence of the potentially negative impact on disadvantaged groups.

It also argued the pilot areas will provide insufficient data and information on which to assess the impact of a UK-wide rollout.


Notes to Editors

[1] The email response from the UKSA to the voter who made the complaint, said: “The UK Statistics Authority does not generally comment on the presentation of statistics by local authorities. However, we have reviewed the evidence presented in your email and we would tend to agree that the presentation of electoral fraud statistics in the letter is misleading. The figures could have been presented alongside the statement for clarity.”

[2] The Electoral Reform Society’s briefing on the trial can be viewed here:

[3] A major coalition of civil society groups, academics and charities have joined the ERS in opposing the mandatory ID plans. These are:

Operation Black Vote, Royal National Institute of Blind People, St Mungo’s, NUS, Stonewall, Liberty, Centrepoint. Age UK, MEND, The Salvation Army, Migrants’ Rights Network, Unlock Democracy, Shout Out UK, Involve, British Youth Council, Race Equality Foundation, Young Voices Heard, WebRoots Democracy, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Croydon BME Forum, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Young Citizens (formerly Citizenship Foundation), United Response, TalkPolitics, Race On The Agenda, The Monitoring Group, Runnymede, LGBT Foundation, Friends, Families and Travellers, Olmec, Independent Age, Voice4Change England, Royal Society for Blind Children, Council of Somali Organisations, Silver Voices, Gendered Intelligence, Brap.

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