I completely agree about the importance of boosting engagement in our elections and ensuring that all students who would like to vote can do so. I believe that asking voters to bring photographic identification to their polling station is an important way of ensuring the public has confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century.
A wide range of photographic identity documents are permitted for the purpose of voting at polling stations, and the Government published a policy paper setting out the reasons for the forms of identification accepted in polling stations. This explains that, given the wide array of educational organisations that provide photographic identification, student identification is not accepted as it could be susceptible to fraud. It is important to note, however, that student cards which are PASS accredited (National Proof of Age Standards Scheme) will be recognised as acceptable proof of identity, such as the National Union of Students ‘TOTUM’ student card. All accredited PASS cards bear a hologram bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme.
It is worth noting that Northern Ireland has required paper identification at polling stations since 1985 and photo identification since 2003, when introduced by the last Labour Government, and it has proven to be effective at stopping fraud, and preventing the crime of stealing someone’s vote. The Electoral Commission’s interim report for the May 2023 local elections shows that the overwhelming majority of voters – 99.75 per cent – cast their vote successfully and the polls adapted well to the rollout of voter identification.
I would like to assure you that the Government will keep the list of accepted identification under review, and will be informed by evaluations of the May 2023 local elections. It is, however, necessary to balance accessibility with the need to ensure that the forms of identification are suitably secure and correctly verify the individual elector. The list of accepted identification must also be manageable for polling clerks, so they are able to recognise the different forms of identification.
The Elections Act includes provisions to allow the list of acceptable identification to be updated through secondary legislation, in recognition that available forms of identification will change over time. Moreover, the Voter Authority Certificate was created so that anyone without identification has the option to apply for a free new one from their local authority.
A significantly more stringent application process is in place for obtaining a 60+ Oyster card, which requires applicants to present a passport, driving licence or combination of different proofs of age and address. By contrast, such a process is not required for other types of Oyster card, such as the 18+ card.