ID cards and wider issues of voter engagement | Letters

Letters: Declining levels of electoral registration in the UK are of greater concern than impersonation, while the US’s electronic voting system has its own security issues

It is far too easy to impersonate someone at a polling station and claim their vote (Voters in local elections will be required to show ID in anti-fraud trials, 28 December). But there is little evidence that the problem is widespread. The Electoral Commission found that there were 19 allegations made following the EU referendum relating to personation at a polling station (some of which resulted in no further action decisions), while a total of 33,577,342 votes were cast.

A far greater problem, according to the government’s own estimates, is that levels of electoral registration have declined from around 95% in the 1950s to around 82/83% in recent years. Most polling stations in the 2015 general election turned away people who may well have been entitled to vote. The government should therefore be taking steps to make sure that every person entitled to vote is actually included on the electoral registers. Much more could be done very easily and at minimal cost to include those people who will soon reach the age of 18 and those registering at colleges etc. People should also be able to check online whether or not they are currently registered.
Chris Rennard
Liberal Democrat, co-chair, all party group on democratic participation, House of Lords

• The government is correct to ignore some of Eric Pickles’ more retrograde recommendations such as banning selfies and non-English languages at polling stations. It is also correct to seek to address the current lack of voter verification we see throughout elections. However, the government risks isolating communities by ruling out the possibility of introducing a separate voter identity document for those without traditional forms of ID. A real pilot scheme would test all viable options, including a separate voter identity document.

Rather than tackling voter fraud, the minister responsible, Chris Skidmore, should be focusing on how to boost voter engagement. Estimates show that 95% of the UK’s 19,000 elected politicians were voted in on turnouts of less than 50%. In the EU referendum, 13 million people did not vote. On top of that, voters with vision impairments, voters with disabilities and voters abroad are virtually locked out of the voting system. Rather than tinkering with a broken system of the past, we should instead look to the future of elections and create a system fit for the 21st century.
Areeq Chowdhury
Chief executive, Institute for Digital Democracy, London

• Yet again we are being told Brits don’t need ID cards. So to show we are entitled to vote, open a bank account, get NHS access etc, we will still have to fiddle around with passports, driving licences, utility bills. Why? One piece of ID is all anyone needs. National insurance numbers are automatically issued at age 16. Why not start at birth or when naturalised or given right of residence? A simple way to prove who you are. Or am I the simple one?
Teresa Gautrey
Wokingham, Berkshire

• As important as the identity of the voter is the secrecy of the ballot (Voter IDs could disenfranchise millions, 28 December). The present system allows checking on how you voted by the simple method of the polling clerk issuing voting slips from a cheque-book-like arrangement, with the left-hand stub on which your polling number is recorded bearing an identifying number corresponding to the same number in the corner of the counterfoil which is torn off for you to vote on. So any voting slip deemed suspicious can be traced back to the relevant stub book.

It may be less contentious to issue a national identity card, as in the second world war; less contentious now that a majority has voted in a referendum for more “control”. It may yet be a small price to pay for a proper secret ballot.
DBC Reed

• The crowd may want its money back judging by the analysis applied to arrive at the conclusion “the US presidential election outcome was correct”, after “a crowdfunded recount of key states”. One of the election result reviewers (‘My students could hack the US election’, 29 December) claimed “… my undergraduate security class could have changed the outcome of the presidential election”. And previous research having “demonstrated security vulnerabilities in every model of voting machine”, allowing “an attacker to silently rewrite the electronic record of how many votes each candidate received”, surely undermines the reviewer’s claim that “the state can prove statistically that the vote has not been tampered with [by] counting a small but statistically significant, randomly selected sample of ballot papers”. No matter how significant or random the sample, rubbish in means rubbish out.

He also concludes that an “auditable paper-trail for electronic voting” is important but it is shocking “how unlikely states are to look at any of the paper”, opening the clear possibility that irregular electronic voting would not have been discovered, so might possibly have been part of a sample. Who can possibly imagine that, once Trump is president, such clearly flawed, “checks and balances” will improve?
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

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