The festive period appears to be an ideal time for the UK government to propose ideas, when it seems nobody will be looking, the government presents a major new policy announcement.
The former UK Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sir Eric Pickles MP, has issued a report that recommends that all UK voters be asked to provide proof of identification at polling stations in a government trial to reduce electoral fraud.
Evidence from local governments, police, academics and election experts in the UK have been gathered over the last 12 months and as a result 50 recommendations have been outlined in order to stop electoral fraud.
Sir Pickles, was commissioned by the UK government in 2015 to consider what changes needed to be made to improve the electoral system and prevent fraud in voting.
This request from the UK government came shortly after the 2015 Tower Hamlets election court judgement, which saw the elected mayor disqualified for corrupt and illegal practices. The Election Commissioner concluded that the former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman had breached election rules and he was ordered to vacate his post with immediate effect.
Sir Eric Pickles MP said that the Tower Hamlets electoral scandal was a "wake up call for all state bodies," and far more needs to be done to "stamp out corruption."
"It was local residents who lost out from the crooked politicians who bullied them and wasted their money. The law must be applied equally and fairly to everyone. Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to uphold the rule of law and ensure fair play," Sir Pickles said in the report.
Now, Sir Eric Pickles MP has published his latest investigation, which outlines the changes that need to take place in order to make the voting process more secure.
One of the recommendations is for people to provide some form of identification at polling stations before they can vote.
Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution, said that the work undertaken by Sir Pickles was a detailed and through piece of work and will ensure that democracy works for everyone.
"The government is determined to ensure that the electoral register is as complete and accurate as possible. The introduction of Individual Electoral Registration has already begun to transform our registration system, increasing its accuracy and performance at the same time as seeing record levels of registration. We intend to continue to build on this success," Mr. Skidmore said in the report.
This is my recommendation on piloting ID requirements in polling station. No more than would be required to pick a parcel up at the P Office pic.twitter.com/8gzES6pPmL— Sir Eric Pickles (@EricPickles) 27 December 2016
The UK government have said that this report will be an important contribution to their fight against all types of fraud in the UK and they will look closely at the recommendations made by Sir Pickles.
Electoral fraud hit the headlines on several occasions in 2016,in December, the UK Electoral Commission said it had fined the Liberal Democrats party with 20,000 pound sterling (US$25,280) following an investigation into the party's 2015 Parliamentary General Election campaign spending return.
However, the issue of electoral fraud is not seen as a serious one according to some experts. Toby S. James, Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia, who welcomes the fact that the new scheme outlined by the UK government will be piloted but warns that it could lead to millions of voters being turned away from polling stations.
What about electoral fraud… I.e., when a party spends more money that it is allowed?…. Can't imagine why you are silent about that. https://t.co/8l4IQWsLVX— Matthew Black (@NoirMJ) December 27, 2016
It also comes at a time when millions of Britons are already missing from the electoral roll. Mr. James argues in his report entitled, 'Poll Workers,' that one way to tackle the problem of electoral fraud is to ask the people on the frontline what should be done.
"By asking those on the frontline of democracy, we are provided with new information about the extent of electoral integrity. Although there are commonly many blockages in the policy process which prevent evidence based policy, poll worker surveys can make evidence based policy more likely," Mr. James states.
In August, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore, was investigated by the police for election fraud. Mr. Moore claimed he was able to cast his ballot twice in Britain's EU referendum to expose how poor the voting rules are. Now the police are investigating the alleged electoral fraud.
Finally, in May 2016, police forces in Britain were looking into claims that the UK Conservative party had failed to report big sums of money spent during their election campaign in 2015.