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The sophisticated security system that UK elections rely on: trust

Akshat Rathi
By Akshat Rathi

Senior reporter

This is not a unique experience. Millions of voters in the UK today, including me, followed the same steps. To the uninitiated, the process is shockingly low-tech.

There is currently no requirement to verify that a voter is actually the person they claim to be at the poll. Only in Northern Ireland are voters required to provide an ID to get a ballot. (Even then, the electoral office notes that ”if the document is out-of-date it will still be accepted, provided the photograph is of a good enough likeness.”)

Once given a ballot, voters simply scrawl an “X” next to their preferred candidate, usually in pencil, and put the folded paper in a box.

“The elections in this country have been run on a trust basis,” a spokesperson at the Electoral Commission told Quartz. “But we are aware of the issues and are actively working towards tackling them.”

A 2014 report produced by the commission said that “fraud is not widespread in the UK but, despite this, a significant proportion of the public remain concerned that it is taking place.”

Needless to say, voting more than once or under someone else’s name is illegal. But that doesn’t seem to be enough to convince people that fraud is rare. In response, the commission is lobbying for a law to require all voters to produce some form ID at polling stations.

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