Revised Proposals to Combat Electoral
Proposal 1: The collection,
during the registration process, of personal identifiers including
date of birth and signature.
The registration form (Form A) used during the annual
canvass and under rolling registration would be amended to accommodate
additional information on individuals, including date of birth
and signature. This information would then be stored on the electronic
database from which the electoral register is drawn.
Identifiers of this sort would allow the Electoral
Office to distinguish between electors with the same names, which
currently is not possible, and thereby to identify those who have
registered more than once. This database could then be examined
to ensure the accuracy of the register. In particular, suspicious
patterns of registration could be investigated. Multiple registration,
which is legal, could be monitored to ensure that it did not lead
to multiple voting.
The data would also be retrieved to check the identity
of those voters applying for absent votes. Applications would
have to contain the correct identifiers, which would deter or
uncover attempted fraud.
Such additional identifiers would also make cross-checking
between databases more effective.
Each voter would be responsible for the accuracy
of his or her additional data, requiring a move to individual
rather than household registration. Individual registration is
already required for rolling registration by the provisions of
the RPA 2000; this proposal would require the same from the annual
canvass. Moreover, by signing the registration form, each elector
declares his/her agreement with the data supplied.
Additionally, dates of birth (though probably not
signatures) could be included on the electoral register held by
the presiding officer on polling day. This information could then
be used to verify voters' identity and the authenticity of their
ID. The signature would be of less use than the date of birth
because it would be hard to refuse a ballot paper to a voter on
the basis of an erratic signature, especially if it is being compared
to one scanned from a form.
Additional information of this kind would also form
the basis of a database to be used in conjunction with the introduction
of electoral cards for identification purposes (see below, Proposal
Proposal 2: Enabling the presiding officers
to ask for confirmation of the voter's date of birth before issuing
a ballot paper.
In addition to the two statutory questions which
presiding officers are currently permitted to ask (viz.
'are you x ?' and 'have you already voted?'), they would
be allowed to ask for confirmation of a voter's date of birth.
This information, collected at the time of registration, would
only be included in the copy of the electoral register carried
by the presiding officer. The presiding officer would be able
to refuse a ballot paper to anyone who was unable or unwilling
to provide this information. Where the voter questions the accuracy
of the electoral register, a tendered ballot paper would be proffered.
There need be no requirement for presiding officers
to check the voters' dates of birth in this way. However, they
could be encouraged to make a visual check on the voter and to
use this additional right to confirm the authenticity of any suspicious
Proposal 3: Replacing the most vulnerable
identification documents currently required at polling stations
with a photographic identity document, which could pave the way
for the eventual introduction of a unique electoral card (see
below, Proposal 6).
A Government-issue photo-ID card would be added to
the list of specified documents to replace those documents which
do not provide photographic identification of the holder: e.g.
the medical card, old GB driving licence, National Insurance card
and benefits book. The passport and photographic driving
licence would remain on the list.
The method of implementation of such a scheme remains
open for discussion. Most probably, during the registration process
those who believe they would be unable to present a passport or
driving licence on polling day would be invited to apply for a
photo-ID card. There are a number of issuing procedures which
could then be followed, including postal application (such as
that for the driving licence or passport) or personal application
at the electoral offices or at temporary local registration centres.
It would even be possible to use mobile issuing units that brought
the necessary equipment to the elector's door. The card would
be free and every effort would be made to ensure that those who
needed such a card would not have to go to any great effort to
get hold of one. This is especially important because those who
are most likely to need such a card are the elderly, infirm or
It is impossible to estimate the take-up of such
a card, since no statistics are available for the relative popularity
of the different specified documents. Electors would be encouraged
to apply for a card only if they were unable to produce one of
the other two documents. The legislation would need to specify
what supporting documentation, such as a birth certificate, that
applicants would need to take with them when obtaining a photo-card.
The cost of producing such a card would include the
purchase or hire of the card-making equipment, the employment
of issuing clerks and the purchase of the relevant database software.
The unit cost of such a card is estimated at 90-110p. A photo-ID
card could be introduced relatively quickly, with an initial issuing
programme lasting up to 18 months. Systems would need to be in
place at local electoral offices to ensure that cards could be
replaced at short notice in the run-up to elections if they were
lost or stolen.
The legislation changing the list of specified documents
should allow for the introduction or re-introduction of other
forms of photographic ID as and when they satisfy the security
requirements. In particular, an updated medical card would be
ideal, since it is generally available, widely used and free.
Proposal 4: Improving the absent vote procedure,
including the regulation of application forms, to enhance and
speed up the checking of various personal identifiers
Building upon the collection of personal identifiers
at registration, applications for absent votes would require confirmation
of the same identifiers. This would require changes to the application
form to allow for visual checking of details, and electronic checking
in the future.
To this end, it is planned to introduce optical character
recognition software and automated form-readers at the Electoral
Office. This would speed up the process of checking application
forms and allow greater time to investigate those forms that do
not provide sufficient or credible information.
In addition, the absent vote application form would
be personalised or given a unique identifier or serial number
to reduce the chances of forgery or fraud. This would prevent
the current practice of party officials photocopying and distributing
large quantities of application forms. It is the Electoral Office's
desire to remove the political parties from the absent voting
procedure just as they have been removed from the registration
Bar-coded application forms could also be pre-printed
with the applicant's name and qualifying address, to save time
The Chief Electoral Officer could be given the express
authority to refuse a postal or proxy vote to anyone who, as checks
are carried out, fails to substantiate their identity and will
not submit a fresh application.
Although essentially an administrative improvement,
the law would have to be changed to allow the Chief Electoral
Officer to require applications for absent votes to be made on
Proposal 5: The regulation of multiple registration
to curb opportunities for multiple voting.
Those who are entitled to registration at more than
one address should not lose that right, but certain restrictions
and regulations could be introduced to close up the loophole,
which allows people to vote more than once in an election.
It would be possible to mark in the register the
names of those who are registered more than once. An initial would
appear in the registers held by electoral officials on polling
day, alerting them to the fact that that voter appears in more
than one register. This would allow them to be vigilant in checking
Also, such vigilance would help ensure that the presiding
officer would be in a better position to confirm or deny that
an individual voted at his/her polling station. If someone was
accused of multiple voting, the presiding officers would act as
credible witnesses to whether he/she actually voted, or whether
someone else had stolen his/her vote.
Proposal 6: Incremental moves towards the
use of an electoral identity card as the sole means of verifying
identity and, eventually, registering a vote
Using the electoral database, including the various
data collected during registration, the Chief Electoral Officer
would be able to issue electoral identity cards to replace all
the specified documents currently required at the polling
station. The card could contain a photograph, a signature and
personal information identifying the holder; later versions could
be encrypted and incorporate biometric data. Technology would
in time permit such a 'smart' card to be used not only as proof
of identity at elections but also as the means to register the
Such a card would be developed following the acceptance
of the optional elector's card. It is estimated that this would
be at least ten years hence. Although the introduction of such
a card would require legislation, there would be no need to legislate
The exact capabilities of such a card would have
to be decided in the future. However, its general purpose would
be (a) to identify the voter without any doubt, (b) to ensure
that the voter is only able to vote once, (c) possibly also to
enable the voter to cast his/her vote.
Although there would naturally be concern at the
introduction of a comprehensive identity scheme of this sort,
there need not be overwhelming opposition. In particular, if the
card has further uses beyond identity at the polling station,
its take-up and maintenance would be guaranteed. It may be possible
to make the card useful for interface with Government or other
services (such as banking).
The cost of purchasing, storing and maintaining card-readers
for around 1200 polling stations, and one million plus electoral
cards would be high. The technology would also require regular
updating. In addition, any system could be vulnerable to IT failure.
A move to such a card would be out of step with GB
but would address electoral abuse in the most comprehensive manner.
Proposal 7: Increased cross-checking of the
details of those on the electoral roll and the establishment of
investigation teams within the electoral office.
The Chief Electoral Officer would use the provisions
of the Representation of the People Act 2000 to make inquiries,
as he thought fit, into those registering as electors and those
applying for absent votes. In particular, these provisions would
allow access to the records of named public authorities. This
power would be used for making individual investigations.
A further power may be required to allow the Electoral
Office to scan the whole electoral register against other large-scale
databases and registers. Although the evidence of other databases
could not be used to correct the electoral register because of
possible inaccuracies, inconsistencies would be investigated.
It would be necessary to ensure that no one was disenfranchised
because his or her personal details were incorrectly entered in
There will need to be compatibility between the relevant
IT systems if the Chief Electoral Officer is to be able to carry
out direct checks with other organisations' databases. This is
being taken into consideration by the consultants investigating
the renewal of the IT provision in the Electoral Office.
Although the Chief Electoral Officer would have to
comply with data protection legislation, efforts to combat fraud
would override many such restrictions.
The additional staff the Chief Electoral Officer
would recruit to meet the requirements of rolling registration
on top of the annual canvass could also form a team to assist
him in checking the authenticity of applicants. However, without
the investigatory powers available to police officers, Inland
Revenue or Customs & Excise staff for example, there will
be a limit to the amount of cross-checking and investigation that
the electoral office staff will be able to carry out.