Thank you for your email.
I support the Elections Bill.
In relation to voter ID, a secure electoral system is a vital component of a healthy democracy, and the public must have confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century. Asking voters to bring ID to their polling station is an important way of achieving this and the Electoral Integrity Bill will put such a requirement into law.
Voter ID is not new. Northern Ireland had required paper ID at polling stations since 1985, and photo ID since 2003 – introduced by the last Labour Government. It has proved to be effective at tackling fraud and has not curtailed election turnout.
Identification to vote has been backed by the Electoral Commission and international election watchdogs. At present, 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 pilot schemes in 2019 and 2018, the overwhelming majority of people cast their vote without a problem and the success of the pilots proves that this is a reasonable and proportionate measure to take, and there was no notable adverse effect on turnout.
The Electoral Commission also stated that "the experience of taking part in the pilot scheme appears to have had a positive impact on people’s perception of the security of the polling station process, and on their confidence in it...Polling station staff were satisfied with how polling day went and were confident that they could manage the process of people showing voter identification at future elections."
Under the Government’s proposals anyone without an ID will be able to apply for a new free one – meaning that no voter will be disenfranchised. Further details are here: Voter Identification - FAQs - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
In relation to the other parts of the Bill referred to, I note your concerns and that you consider that civil society organisations are being prevented from adding their voice to the debate but let me assure you that this would not be the case. I recognise the important role CSOs play in providing valuable information on a variety of policies. The Bill instead aims to make elections fairer and more transparent by requiring greater transparency from campaigners.
Clauses 24 of the Bill, for instance, would require third party campaigns to give notice to the Electoral Commission at a lower level of expenditure that is currently required. Clause 25 would require campaign spending, which is part of a joint plan between a registered party and a third party or parties, to be counted as part of the spending limits of all parties involved. Third parties would also be required to have a legitimate UK interest to campaign in UK elections. Campaign spending, which is part of a joint plan between a registered party and a third party or parties, would be counted as part of the spending limits of all parties involved. While I appreciate your concerns, I believe campaign expenditure and joint campaigning should be transparently and fairly regulated.
I believe that joint campaigning has an important role to play in our electoral system but it should be transparently and fairly regulated particularly when it could be regarded as intending to achieve a common purpose.
In order to ensure that legitimate categories of third party that may emerge in the future are not unduly restricted in their ability to campaign, Clause 23 proposes that the Government be able to amend the list of legal entities eligible to register as campaigners under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Any such change would be subject to Parliament scrutiny in the usual way and there would be no unilateral change by the Government.
With regard to proposals concerning the Electoral Commission, I believe it is the role of the police and the prosecution services to enforce electoral regulations. The Bill intends to clarify this status quo. I can assure you that this is not about interfering with the investigative, operational or enforcement decisions of the Electoral Commission. The reforms would not affect the ability of the Commission to undertake enforcement action but it would ensure greater accountability to Parliament.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Richard Fuller MP