back to article UK.gov to roll out voter ID trials in 2019 local elections

The government is to expand its controversial voter ID trials in next year’s local elections. sledgehammer reduces cement block to powder 'A sledgehammer to crack a nut': Charities slam UK voter ID trials READ MORE The trials require people to bring personal identification before they are allowed to vote, and were rolled out …

Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

"Do you have a photocard certifying that you qualify for free bus travel?"

No. I walk everywhere I need in the town. A three mile radius is still within my physical capabilities. The bus services to villages where friends live are the one a day variety - so only a taxi is viable for the occasional dinner invitation.

No point in causing a cost to the council for something I would never use.

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Re: So...

They don’t accept printed versions of online bills sometimes.

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Re: So...

Do they work? You can’t get a job without proving the right to work.

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Re: So...

They don’t accept printed versions of online bills sometimes.

That's ok I always hand-write mine

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Re: So...

"What if you have gone paperless billing/statements and don't own a printer to print them off?"

OTOH if you have a printer you can "print off" any bill or statement you care to invent.

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Re: So...

"Not everyone has a form of acceptable photo ID, I have family who don't drive and have never travelled abroad."

Just like my wife. Likewise, none of the bills are in her name either. Only her bank account is her name. So that's one bit of non-photo ID where two are usually required.

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Re: So...

"You can’t get a job without proving the right to work."

Having a right to work doesn't mean you have a right to vote. Especially after Brexit.

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Should we also consider making voting compulsory, that way we might not be in such a pickle over things like Bexit etc. Just saying.

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To be fair if voter turn out was as high normally as it was for the Brexit vote no one would be worried about making it compulsory.

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RE: Scott

Australia has compulsory voting. You can be fined for not casting your vote.

I actually like that system, since it shuts up those people we all know who complain about politics, but never bother voting. If you don't like the system, vote to change it, don't just complain.

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Should we also consider making voting compulsory

What would that achieve? People who don't care would either spoil their ballot or just tick a box at random. Neither would improve the quality of the results.

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All valid points above and I suppose my suggestion is a rather blunt instrument towards political engagement, but just how do we get more people to use their votes, even if it means ticking `None of the Above'. My worries are two-fold really: implementing E-voting absolutely securely (if indeed that is a possibility) and tearing peoples eyes away from their wretched social media feeds in order that they can take a more educated, pinch of salt, with what they digest therein. But it all seems like a bit of a double-edged sword, because whilst these might be ways forward to greater engagement, they may also just be a means to nothing of the sort, rather allowing external influences to grab votes instead. I really don't know the answer and it bothers me.

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Anonymous Coward

@Scott

Yes, so long as there is a "None of the above" option.

Then they might realise, like the rest of us did decades ago, that they don't actually have a mandate for most of the "improvements" they want to make.

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@Phil O'Sophical

People who don't care would either spoil their ballot or just tick a box at random. Neither would improve the quality of the results.

And for people who do care, the field of candidates can be somewhat wanting. The solution is...

[ ] None of the above

edit: just realised @Scott Broukell has already remarked...

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Anonymous Coward

By all means, have compulsory voting so long as we also have a legally binding 'none of the above' option on the ballot, just to be clear, if the result is 'none of the above' then the other named candidates on the ballot are excluded from standing again.

(I'd also suggest that as a 'none of the above' result could be taken as a rejection of the parties the candidates stood for, these parties should be also be excluded from any future ballot where this was the result. It might dissuade them from their nasty habit of putting their prize putzes up for election in what they regard as 'safe' seats where they think the sheeple will always vote for them).

Edit: I've just noticed other comments on 'none of the above', I was going to remove this one, but still think that the option has to have some legal teeth, otherwise it's meaningless.

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This is the problem with "None of the above": what do you do with votes for it? If it isn't the top choice then it is, to a large extent, much the same as just not voting, or a spoiled ballot. If voting is compulsory then it could be considered as an indicator similar to turnout, but would only have an effect if there were some minimal threshold for that vote, i.e. if the vote were invalid without at least 60% turnout.

If NOTA were the "winning vote" then things get more complex. If you ask someone to choose between options and they reply "I don't want any of them", the obvious next question is "well, who do you want, then?". If they can't answer that question, is their opinion actually worth much?

What about elections which allow a write-in?

I wouldn't agree with using a NOTA result to disqualify the others, it would again achieve little since they clearly were unwanted that time and presumably would lose if they stood again. As for excluding parties, it's important to remember that in a respresentative democracy like the UK you vote for a person to represent you, not for a party. The party name wasn't even on the ballot until the Wilson government of the 70s. Blocking a party in one constituency because of one undesirable candiate (often chosen by a local group) also seems extreme.

The reality of giving everyone a vote is that people will chose to vote, or not, for their own personal reasons, and we have to respect that. Forcing them to vote, or forcing change based on non-votes, is hardly democratic.

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Pint

RE:RE:RE:RE...

It would work better if people didn't simply vote, but ranked in preference the candidates. Then the lowest number of votes is eliminated until someone passes 50% and wins. Seems fairer than the current system.

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TRT
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The big question is, does it have a bigger effect on voter turnout than the size of the problem it intends to correct (minus the amount of problem remaining even WITH the measures)?

I mean, if it causes 2,300 people to not bother voting because of the extra hassles, prevents 40 of the 44 misrepresentation/impersonation votes, but allows 4 impersonations despite the measure, then it has a net dis-benefit AND costs many tens of thousands of pounds.

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We don't know, because in the last voter ID trial, nobody recorded how many people were turned away or how many people didn't bother voting because they couldn't get ID.

Presumably if that data were recorded then it might have been found that the trials weren't a resounding success.

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two forms of non-photo ID...?

What would this be then... in today's society, not that of our grandparents.

Live in a city (no car because it is expensive, cannot park it anywhere and the public transport is good enough), have young kids (holidays abroad are too much trouble) so have no photo ID. Bank, utilities etc. are all online, so don't have paper bills (*IS* one printed from the internet OK?); and most of those are in just one persons name from a couple (have you tried to get both names on the account?).

These may be easy to solve individually, but there is a threshold where it is just too much trouble. That threshold is lower for certain groups of society, who then become disproportionately excluded from voting. What is the impact on democracy? We have seen what a cock-up the last lot of reforms were in the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: two forms of non-photo ID...?

We don't have democracy.

We have a stacked system where, for those who have power, the last thing they want is democracy, transparency or accountability.

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Anonymous Coward

Voter Suppression - coming to a polling station near you - soon

That's the whole purpose and intent !

I refer gentle readers to yesterday's Guardian's article on the subject on how they do it in the USA:

Rigging the vote: how the American right is on the way to permanent minority rule

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Re: two forms of non-photo ID...?

The problem is even worse for some specific groups. For example, wives in some communities are even less likely to have photo-ID than their husbands, and are unlikely to be named on any utility bills -- their whole presence is in their husband's name. Why would we deny them the vote?

Other groups such as homeless or frequently moving people or people in shared accommodation are likely to have no ID -- and likely to be poorer. Why would the Conservative government be trying to deny them a vote I wonder?

It is just gerrymandering with a fig leaf created from a non-problem.

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Re: The trial was a resounding success.

Sadly, I don't think anyone cares to stop the slow motion coup taking place in this country, despite the obvious parallels with the US.

This measure is intended to entrench the party of government in power by means of voter suppression.

"On May 3rd 2018, 350 people were denied a vote in their local council elections. ... The minister hailed these trials of mandatory voter ID as a ‘success’. ... The scheme disenfranchised far more ordinary voters than potential wrongdoers: in a single day across the five councils, twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID as have been accused of personation in eight years across the whole of the UK."

www.electoral-reform.org.uk

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Re: Voter Suppression - coming to a polling station near you - soon

The guardian story misses anotherextremely important aspect to american voter suppression:

In many areas(*), if you have a criminal record you're automatically disenfranchised - which when coupled with systematic overenforcement against poor and black communities compared to the same crimes performed by richer, whiter offenders - results in an ever greater level of voter suppression than people tend to realise.

This has been ruled illegal under international law and the USA roundly condemned about the issue a number of times but it's shown zero interest in sorting it out.

(*) Particularly in the US South.... Surprise Surprise.

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Re: two forms of non-photo ID...?

"their whole presence is in their husband's name. Why would we deny them the vote?"

We *should not*, of course. However, it seems obvious to me that for many women who fall into that category this would effectively give their husbands two votes. I don't know how to square that circle. Perhaps if candidates tried to address the issues that the majority of people face it might help.

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Re: Voter Suppression - coming to a polling station near you - soon

They also move the polling station in ethnic areas without telling anyone. Full-scale disenfranchisement.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: two forms of non-photo ID...?

"(have you tried to get both names on the account?)."

That's how my wife got her new bank account. Not enough ID to open one in her own name, but one old bank statement plus marriage certificate was enough for her to open a joint account with me at my bank. Once it was all sorted, we wrote to the bank and asked for my name to be taken off that account. Job done, albeit with a little hassle. All of this was at the suggestion of the accounts manager at my bank.

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Len
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Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

I complained to the Electoral Commission a couple of years ago that all ballot papers in the UK are numbered and that that number is recorded by the polling clerk against your name. That means that a person's vote is not secret and so it's not a secret ballot as is standard in proper democracies.

They said it is done to tackle voter fraud and that I should just trust the government not to abuse it. I retorted that it is ridiculous that anyone can rock up to the polling booth without ID or even the polling card and claim to be anyone they have a name and local address of and vote on their behalf. Until a couple of years ago I lived across from my polling station in a building with a shared letterbox. I could have easily popped over in the morning and vote as myself, pop over around lunch time claiming to be my next door neighbour and pop back around dinner time claiming to be another neighbour. A polling clerk who sees hundreds of people a day would not notice a thing. How can someone claim to have numbered ballots to protect against voter fraud if anyone could vote as anyone?

If requiring ID (or at a minimum handing in the actual polling card!) means that they can introduce a secret ballot I am all for it.

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Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

'(or at a minimum handing in the actual polling card!)'

Exactly, they go to the trouble of posting you a card it can't be that hard to make it an exchangeable token in return for which you get to vote. I mean obviously government's involved so it can be that hard and cost millions, but seriously no card no vote must be the simplest solution surely?

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Facepalm

Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

They said it is done to tackle voter fraud and that I should just trust the government not to abuse it.

The mind boggles....

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Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

(or at a minimum handing in the actual polling card!)

Maybe that would be a way of combatting the postal vote fraud - the polling card has to be included with the postal vote for it to be valid.

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Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

The polling number is on the back of the ballot paper. When the papers are being counted, they are kept face-up so the candidates and their agents lurking behind those doing the counting do not see the polling number. Traditionally the only time the polling number is reconnected to the voter ID is when there are court actions over the vote.

Postal votes are slightly different. As they are received in the days before the election, they are vetted by election staff and then put into a ballot box ready for counting. As a candidate myself, I have wondered what checks there are on that vetting. The candidates are not invited to oversee things for obvious reasons. Does the Electoral Commission do any overseeing here?

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Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

Whilst it would be possible for a nasty government to go through the ballot and work out exactly how people voted, it would be a hell of a lot of work. Easier to just use the canvassing returns to plan retribution. [although, having said that, I do hope the referendum ballots are still available so that we can work out who gets the one-way ticket to West Falkland]

Anyway, the normal use of the numbering is as follows:

1) If someone turns up to vote and they appear to have voted already (they are crossed off the list) then they are given a pink ballot paper which goes in a separate envelope.

2) When the votes are counted, if the result is very close, i.e. majority less than the number of pink papers, the original papers are identified and removed, and the pink ones counted in their place. It's a lot of work!

I've seen pink papers used. I was acting as Polling Clerk and a little old lady came in. She'd been crossed off. Oh shit! Have we made a mistake? Then went through the pile of polling cards and found her card. Someone had used it. Had she already voted? No, but she had last month. Previous election was over a year ago. Dementia? Anyway she got the pink paper.

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Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

Governments have monitored voting to punish civil servants who voted the wrong way around the World. The chilling threat is enough to keep parties in power for a very long time

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

I worked as a central poll supervisor in our last federal election, which includes training for every single role in a polling station. These are very well defined, and *nothing* happens without two people supervising it... and specific people are responsible for the ballots for each poll.

The people who verify your identity have no record of your ballot, and it is illegal for anyone to mark a ballot in any way that makes it identifiable.

Advanced votes or votes at a different location are enclosed in an envelope with all the data to identify the voter, and to detect any duplicate votes. The inner security envelope that holds the ballot is not marked in any way, and is only opened after the polls close, by the poll clerk and assistant poll clerk for the poll in which your vote counts. These people never see the outer identity envelope which is filed elsewhere for audit purposes. The ballots are mixed in with all the other identical ballots before counting starts, so no one knows if a given ballot is received from an advanced poll, remote poll, or regular poll - all they know is that other people confirmed that the voter lived in the poll area that they are counting.

Counting generally involves a poll clerk, assistant poll clerk or other electoral officer, and scrutineers from any of the parties that wish to send one (usually the biggest three to five parties in a riding), all of whom can observe (but not touch) the ballots and monitor the counting.

Everyone working on the election is sworn to secrecy, and there are penalties prescribed for breaches.

Interestingly, only the poll clerk can decide on whether a ballot follows the rules for validity or not. No one, not the Central Poll Supervisor, not the Returning Officer (whose powers vaguely resemble those of an old time captain of a ship at sea - the RO is the final authority for the conduct of the election in their riding - and no government official or politician can over-rule them) can tell the poll clerk what decision to take, though they can point to the regulations and instructions that may be relevant. The appeal of a poll clerk's decision is in the hands of a judicial review, if needed.

There's a lot more, but it is quite possible to build a secure 'double blind' electoral process where nobody can tie a vote to a person.... and cheating the system is somewhere between extremely difficult and next to impossible.

For example, no ballot is valid unless it is initialled by the poll clerk - who must do it exactly the same way on each ballot, as they hand it to the voter. The ballot boxes are sealed with signed and serial numbered seals to prevent opening them, and they are never unsupervised by the poll clerk or assistant poll clerk once they contain ballots, until they are opened and counted.... then they are resealed and placed in secure storage by the RO.

All the ballots are counted and signed for at each stage where they change hands, and the numbers have to balance before and after the vote.

I should dig out my training books and review the process, because I know I am missing some of the subtle details and precautions... but at the time I was impressed at how well everything was tracked and audited while maintaining complete secrecy of the actual votes.

Fraud protection is very carefully decoupled from the actual votes, and is tied to the act of being identified as a voter and being handed a blank ballot.

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Anonymous Coward

A nasty government working out exactly how people voted

If it's technically possible they'll do it.

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Re: Lack of a secret ballot is a greater problem

Yes the numbers are there for auditing purposes - if required.

Yes they're covered over before the paper is handed out.

This is why ballot papers are destroyed shortly after counting if there is no challenge

The very few cases of personation and multiple voting that have taken place in the UK in recent history (as in, the last 100 years) made no difference to results in any case as they did not happen in marginal seats.

In marginal seats or where things are tight in results, _every_ ballot is carefully counted and recounted a number of times and voters vs rolls are audited to ensure there's no suggestion of hanky panky going on.

There are enough checks and balances in the system that the far bigger risk (and the elephant in the room) is not voter fraud, but count manipulation - do NOT let electronic voting or counting take place, it's just too risky.

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N.Ireland

Has been a requirement to have ID to get your ballot paper there for some time.

because of shenanigans, obviously.

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Re: N.Ireland

Vote Early, Vote Often

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Anonymous Coward

We don't want YOU to vote.

In the US, many localities have mandated a state issued ID card for voting because they know that a certain demographic will not or can not obtain such an ID because of the requirements to obtain one. Effectively preventing a certain class of people from voting in the name of security..

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Re: We don't want YOU to vote.

Not that our trustworthy and honourable Tories would ever consider something like that.

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Re: We don't want YOU to vote.

Don't single the Tories out in your accusation - Labour would jump at the chance to do this too.

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Re: We don't want YOU to vote.

@Rusty 1: I think Pen-y-gors is older than you. Old enough to remember the Poll Tax and the significant drop in voter registration at the following election. IOW, the Tories actually have form on this one.

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In other countries

They just use a pot of bright purple dye.

You dip your finger in the dye to mark your ballot paper and then post it. Anyone with a bright purple finger can't vote again.

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Re: In other countries

In the UK the corruption is in large part down to the postal voting system.

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Re: In other countries

In the UK the corruption is in large part down to the postal voting system. Non-existant

FTFY

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I don't understand why they don't introduce phone voting as an option. Just a reworked a version of any telephone banking that's been around for decades would do it. You get sent a pin in the post or email and when you call in you can change it. After you've cast your vote you can call to verify it is as you chose and not been fiddled with, or even change it later up to a certain cut off time. Not 100% bullet proof obviously, still some could be coerced to vote a certain way in some households, and the deaf wouldn't be served by it. But most people including the elderly can always access a phone from anywhere.

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Being able to verify or change it makes that system more exploitable!

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Stop

Infection from abroad

I see our Left-Pondian Republicon bullshit has infected Merry Olde as well. On behalf of your former Colony, I apologize. I'd like to say it won't happen again, but I cannot make that promise. We're in the process of disinfecting our house, and I'd recommend you Right-Pondians get busy and do that same, lest the infection do the same level of damage as it as (and continues to do) here.

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