Voters to Be Asked to Provide Signatures as Government Moves to Crack Down On Electoral Fraud

Gerri Peev, Daily Mail (London), Nov. 16, 2010

Voters will have to give their date of birth, supply a signature and national insurance number before they can register to take part in the next election in a clamp down on widespread electoral fraud.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will set out tough new measures for voter identification in a keynote speech today.

He will warn that the political system has fallen ‘dangerously out of step’ with life in Britain and that politics remains ‘closed, remote, elite’.

Mr Clegg will announce a new bill on constitutional reform to sort out the chaotic electoral register.

He will say: ‘People must have confidence in the system, and know that it is secure against fraud. So we are committed to tackling fraud by speeding up the move to individual–as opposed to household–registration.’

New security measures will be in place by 2014, in time for the next general election.

The previous government had planned to delay tougher rules until after polling day.

Every voter will have to register themselves, provide a signature, national insurance number and date of birth.

The move is expected to clean up the electoral fraud witnessed in areas such as Tower Hamlets, where thousands of bogus voters appeared on the roll weeks before the general election.

Labour supporters were accused of packing the electoral roll with relatives living overseas or inventing phantom voters.

Mr Clegg will warn that the government would still have to deal with the millions of people who are not on the electoral register.

Around 3.5 million have slipped off the role–more than the populations of Greater Manchester and Birmingham put together.

In the annual Political Studies Association/Hansard Society lecture in London, Mr Clegg will say:’The Coalition Government is clear: these missing millions must be given back their voice. There is no magic wand solution; but, equally, there is no excuse for inaction.’

From next year local authorities will compare other databases to the electoral register to identify missing voters.

Mr Clegg will say: ‘We’ve already launched the process, and local authorities are bidding now to run schemes to test what works best.

‘Council officers will be able help these people to get on the register. And, if it works, it could be rolled out across the rest of the country.’

The problem of slipping off the register is worst among the young, black and ethnic minority communities and in poorer areas.

Mr Clegg will signal that voting would never be compulsory the way it is in countries such as Australia, saying registration would always be down to individual choice.

More frequent boundary reviews will also be unveiled to end the ‘outdated, haphazard arrangements we inherited from Labour’.

An attempt by Labour to scupper the coalition government’s plans for a boundary shake up was narrowly defeated yesterday by just 14 votes.

The government overturned Labour’s attempts to delay the planned redrawing of constituencies, which is tied to a referendum on changing the voting system in the knife-edge vote in House of Lords.

Labour’s ex Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, had argued that because the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill protected the constituency boundaries of the Western Isles and Orkney and the Shetlands, it was ‘hybrid’ and had to be referred to a panel of parliamentary clerks.

If the clerks had ruled that the Bill was hybrid–which means it applies to a specific group differently than to the general public–the timetable for the referendum on the Alternative Vote system would have been thrown into chaos.

Ministers are intent on holding the referendum next May, despite warnings from the Electoral Commission that the timetable is already slipping.

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