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Women in Westminster: In Conversation With Cindy Butts Partner content
By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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We must protect voter confidence in our elections


3 min read

We are fortunate that the public has very high levels of confidence in elections here in the UK. But this can’t be taken for granted. It is essential to ensure elections are well delivered and voters have a positive experience.

Over the last century, the weight and complexity of electoral law  has grown. The Elections Act 2022 is the most recent addition, introducing voter ID. 

Our research after the 2023 May elections found the vast majority of voters were able to take part successfully, but the new requirement made it harder for some people to vote – usually as a result of either not having the right ID or not knowing they needed to show it. 
Worryingly, people who are unemployed, have disabilities, and are from lower socio-economic backgrounds were disproportionately impacted.  

We must improve the system and guard against the loss of voter confidence which, once lost, is so hard to regain

Although we have previously put forward proposals to improve accessibility of the policy, our current focus is on making it work as well as possible. We are building on the levels of awareness generated last year, and promoting the free voter ID, the Voter Authority Certificate, to those who need it. 

Nearly 80 per cent of people are aware of the need to bring ID, which shows that our efforts, and those of the wider sector, are bearing fruit. Combined with the really positive voter registration figures we saw – more than a million registrations during our six-week campaign – there is plenty of reason to feel encouraged ahead of these polls.  

But to understand the full picture, we will be gathering data and evidence on the 2 May elections from polling stations across England and Wales. We will publish these figures and an analysis of the election in the summer to inform preparations for the general election.  

Looking beyond the general election, the next parliament affords a new opportunity for substantial and meaningful reform of our electoral laws. The iterative approach to legislative reform is of course natural but has reached the point of putting the system under extreme strain. 

For some time, we have called for considered, wholesale reform of the system. Our research and reporting have continued to highlight the pressures on those responsible for delivering elections, and the risk this brings to the continued delivery of well-run elections. 

We have also put forward a range of recommendations to reform our democratic practices, not least bringing voter registration into the 21st century. With greater automation, we can make it easier for millions of voters to participate and help to prioritise electoral administration resources elsewhere. As many as eight million people are not on the electoral register, whether incorrectly registered or not registered at all.   

For now, we are focused on this year’s elections to ensure we play our part in making sure they are well delivered and maintain voter participation and confidence. But we must improve the system and guard against the loss of voter confidence which, once lost, is so hard to regain. 

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