Voters in Britain will have to bring proof of identity to polling stations for the first time next year as the government tries to crack down on electoral fraud.
Under plans to be announced in the New Year, certain areas of the country will require voters to show a passport, driving licence or utility bill before they can vote.
Former Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles, who is now the government’s “anti-corruption tsar”, said that “politically correct over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion” had led to the government ignoring fraud in previous elections, The Times reports.
He issued a report saying that Britain’s “trust-based” electoral system, where people simply have to turn up to a polling station and give their name and address, is no longer tenable.
Ministers will now test many of Sir Eric’s recommendations in a series of pilot schemes across the country next year.
His report was commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron after the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, was removed from office by an electoral court which found him guilty of corrupt practices in the previous election.
Sir Eric said electoral fraud was more prevalent in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, where he said the right to a free and secret vote “may not be fully valued”.
Allegations of electoral fraud have rocketed since Tony Blair’s government liberalised the rules around postal voting, allowing all eligible voters to request a postal ballot even if they were still able to vote in person.
Tower Hamlets Mayor Rahman was removed was found guilty of bribery and using “undue spiritual influence”, with the judge accusing him of “subverting” the natural sense of solidarity among the London borough’s Bangladeshi community in order to pressure them into voting for him.
In 2014, the Electoral Commission published a report naming 16 local authority areas that are particularly at risk of voter fraud, including Oldham, Birmingham, Bradford, Tower Hamlets and Slough. Most of the areas have high immigration rates.