The British public deserves to have confidence in our democracy, and the clear potential for electoral fraud in our system risks undermining that confidence. Voter ID was first introduced in Northern Ireland in 1985, following evidence of a spike in electoral malpractice. There is little evidence that this has presented any difficulties for people in terms of accessibility. In Northern Ireland it is widely regarded as a success. The Cabinet Office assessed that Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking delivered successful voter ID pilots in England in 2018.
I appreciate your concerns over people being turned away at polling stations, but I hope you are reassured by the evidence which shows the majority of voters who turned up to vote without identification returned later with their documents without problem. I am also pleased that polling station staff overwhelmingly judged that they had been able to successfully deliver the ID requirements in their polling stations. I agree on the need to ensure people are able to vote freely in our elections, which is why it was important that locally issued ID was made available free of charge whenever an elector was unsure if they could produce identification.
The independent Electoral Commission has published its own review of the voter ID pilot schemes. The Commission shares the view of the Cabinet Office that the pilots worked well overall; it is encouraging that their main recommendation was for the Government to encourage a wider range of local councils to run pilot schemes in the May local elections.
A diverse range of ten local authorities took part in Voter ID and postal vote pilots for the 2019 local elections. The Electoral Commission's evaluation of the May pilots found that the voter ID requirement had a positive impact on people's perceptions of the security of the polling station process. The Cabinet Office evaluation also reported strong levels of confidence in participating local authorities that there were sufficient safeguards to prevent electoral fraud.
I look forward to seeing how ministers will consider this evidence in their decisions for national rollout of the programme.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.