Campaign Response: Elections Act

I have been contacted by constituents about the British Indian Ocean Territory.

As the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South, I have included below my response:

A secure electoral system is a vital component of a healthy democracy. The Elections Act updates elections law and delivers on manifesto commitments to protect our democracy and ensure that it remains secure, transparent and fair.

The Elections Act responds to recommendations in Lord Pickles’ report into election fraud published in 2016 and builds upon long-term objectives set out in the Government’s wider Defending Democracy Programme. The changes it introduces alongside measures in the Online Safety Bill will protect our democracy from new and evolving threats and underpin the systems which support it.

Identification to vote has been backed by the Electoral Commission and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which state that its absence is a security risk.

In Northern Ireland voters have been required to produce personal identification before voting in polling stations since 1985, with photographic identification being required since 2003 when introduced by the last Labour Government. Ministers at the time noted that “the Government have no intention of taking away people’s democratic right to vote. If we believed that thousands of voters would not be able to vote because of this measure, we would not be introducing it at this time.” I should add that the Electoral Commission's 2021 Public Opinion tracker recorded that not a single Northern Ireland respondent reported: ‘I don’t have any identification / I would not be able to vote’.

The Electoral Commission has also commented that “since the introduction of photo ID in Northern Ireland there have been no reported cases of personation. Voters’ confidence that elections are well-run in Northern Ireland is consistently higher than in Great Britain, and there are virtually no allegations of electoral fraud at polling stations.”

I would like to assure you that anyone without identification will be able to apply for a new free one – meaning that no voter will be disenfranchised. I believe that 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.

Furthermore, I believe that electors should be able to cast their vote without undue external influence. Although it is already an offence to unduly influence a voter, the current outdated legislation requires modernisation. The Act updates electoral law so that undue influence covers a wider range of harms such as damage to reputation, spiritual pressure or financial loss. Deceiving an elector on the conduct of an election and intimidation at polling stations will also amount to undue influence, addressing concerns raised by the Election Court in the Tower Hamlets mayoralty case.