New UK Election Law to Ban Postal Vote Harvesting

The UK government said on Friday it plans to boost election integrity by stopping postal vote harvesting, limiting proxy voting, and clamping down on voter intimidation.

This follows the announcement earlier this week that voters will be required to show photographic ID before being issued ballots at a polling station.

Under new measures announced on Friday, “postal vote harvesting” will be stopped by limiting the number of postal votes that a person may hand in on behalf of others.

Currently, anyone is able to collect postal votes from any number of electors and hand them in at a polling station, which the government said presents a risk of postal votes being appropriated and stolen, or voters completing postal ballot papers under duress.

The new law will also ban party campaigners from handling postal votes altogether, making it a criminal offence.

The new rules will extend the secrecy provisions to absentee voting by making it an offence for a person to attempt to find out or reveal who a postal voter has chosen to vote for.

While registration for postal votes is currently valid indefinitely, the new rules will require postal voters to reaffirm their identities by re-applying every three years.

New restrictions will also be imposed on proxy voting, which, under current rules, opens up the possibility that someone could be coerced into appointing a proxy—particularly by close relatives.

To prevent abuse, the government plans to limit the total number of people for whom someone can act as a proxy to four, regardless of their relationship.

Current laws already ban “undue influence” over voters, but the government said the “outdated legislation” needs to be modernised by, among other measures, explicitly listing intimidation of voters as a form of undue influence.

Chloe Smith, UK government minister for the constitution and devolution, said: “Stealing someone’s vote is stealing their voice. We must go further to protect and modernise our precious democracy.

“Our robust package of measures will stamp out the space for such damage to take place in our elections again and give the public confidence that their vote is theirs and theirs alone—no matter how they choose to cast it.”

The government also publicised more details on the requirement for voter ID when voters cast ballots in polling stations.

Under the new legislation, local authorities must provide a “voter card” free of charge to anyone who needs it.

A broad range of approved documents will be accepted—not just UK passports and driving licences, but also various concessionary travel passes and parking permits.

According to government data, 99 percent of ethnic minorities already have a form of identification that would be accepted under the proposals, as do 98 percent of people who identify as white.

May 15, 2021 10:24 am

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