English voters set to be asked for ID for first time under electoral trials

Voters in some areas will have to show ID before they are allowed to cast their ballot in a trial next year aimed at countering electoral fraud.

The tests will mark the first time that English voters will have been asked to prove their identity to take part in the democratic process.

If deemed successful, the extra security measures could then be rolled out to the rest of the UK.

Only 44 people were caught trying to steal someone else's vote in the 2016 elections, up slightly from 21 cases in 2014.

The Electoral Commission has said that more safeguards are needed to safeguard electoral security.

But critics say the move is "completely unnecessary" and risks "undermining democracy".

English citizens have never previously been asked to prove their ID to vote. Credit: PA

The move comes after the Electoral Commission watchdog recommended in 2014 that voters should be required to prove their identities.

Pilot trials of the new security measures will be held during local elections in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough in May 2018.

They will test asking for both photo and non-photo forms of identification in different areas to see which is most effective and efficient.

The east London borough of Tower Hamlets will also run a separate pilot examining the security of postal votes.

Some have said the plans could undermine democracy. Credit: PA

Constitution minister Chris Skidmore it was right that security measures were increased to protect vote security.

"For people to have confidence in our democratic processes we need to ensure that our elections are safeguarded against any threat or perception of electoral fraud," he said.

"The current situation of people simply pointing out their name without having to prove who they are feels out of date when considering other safeguards to protect people's identity."

But the proposals have been roundly critcised by opponents who say they make it harder to take part in elections and the tiny number of voter fraud cases simply do not justify the increased barriers to democracy.

The results of the trial will be published in simmer 2018. Credit: PA

Liberal Democrat Tom Brake said: "This is a completely unnecessary move that risks undermining our democracy by preventing millions of people from voting."

He added: "We should be encouraging people to vote, not excluding them."

The Electoral Commission welcomed the trial and said it would publish independently-reviewed findings in summer 2018.

Chief executive Claire Bassett said: "We welcome the minister's announcement today as a positive first step towards implementing our 2014 recommendation that an accessible, proportionate voter identification scheme should be introduced in Great Britain."