Electoral integrity, voter fraud and voter ID in polling stations: lessons from English local elections

Toby S. James, Alistair Clark

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Polling stations are at the fulcrum of the democratic process. They are the location where most voters exercise their democratic rights, but also one place where electoral fraud and irregularities may occur, both in consolidating and established democracies. This study provides a detailed analysis of the nature and frequency of electoral irregularities that are found in English local elections using original surveys of poll workers in 2018 and 2019 (n=5659). It also identifies the effects of recent attempts to improve electoral integrity through the introduction of voter identification requirements on a pilot basis. Elections are found to be broadly well run but problems are reported with names missing from the electoral register and polling station accessibility requirements. Some more infrequent problems were reported with inappropriate behaviour from party agents/candidate - and some gender-based intimidation amongst voters. Attempted impersonation was exceptionally rare, however, and measures to introduce voter identification requirements therefore had little effect on the security of the electoral process. In fact, they led to some voters not casting their ballot, either for reasons of convenience and availability of suitable forms of ID, or reasons of principle and protest. There are therefore important implications for the wider literature on electoral integrity and the design of democratic practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-209
Number of pages20
JournalPolicy Studies
Issue number2-3
Early online date25 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Electoral integrity
  • electoral administration
  • electoral management
  • local elections
  • voter identification

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