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British Government to require voters to provide ID to register to vote

The Times reports:

In an historic shift, which comes after years of campaigning by the Electoral Commission and The Times, the Government finally agreed yesterday to end the system whereby one person in each household names all those eligible to vote in their property.

Voters will be allowed to register individually on the electoral roll from the autumn of 2010 by either signing a form or providing identification. Household registration will still be an option until the autumn of 2015, when individual registration will become compulsory if it is given approval by the Electoral Commission.

Michael Wills, the Justice Minister, called the decision “radical and unprecedented” last night.

Campaigners have been pressing for individual registration as a way of tackling rising electoral fraud, such as “ghost voters” who are registered but do not exist in a house and fraudsters who apply for bogus postal votes.

A report for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust found last year that there have been at least 42 convictions for electoral fraud in Britain in the past seven years.

In 2004 a judge quashed the results of two local council elections in Birmingham after deciding that there had been systematic large-scale postal-vote rigging. The judge said that he had heard evidence of fraud that “would disgrace a banana republic”. In 2007 a Tory councillor was found guilty of using bogus postal votes to ensure that he was voted into office in Slough.

A number of comments:

  • The government made it easier for people to apply for postal votes, with the result that they made it easier for voting fraud to take place.
  • This proposal is being put forward as a solution to a problem the government created with earlier policies. It makes voting, whether by post or otherwise, more difficult, and gives the government more power over the voting process by determining the form of ID required to register to vote. An unscrupulous government could use this measure to disenfranchise voters.
  • If the National Identity Scheme goes ahead, it’ll only be a matter of time before having a valid entry on the National Identity Register becomes necessary if you’re to register to vote.

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