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The sophisticated security that the UK’s voting system relies on: trust

Reuters/Paul Hackett
No firearms allowed.
  • Akshat Rathi
By Akshat Rathi

Senior reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Today (Jun 23), millions of voters in the UK will decide whether they want to remain a part of the EU or not. A registered voter will go to a designated polling booth, where he or she will be asked to provide a name and an address, before being handed a ballot.

It’s a shockingly low-tech security system.

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 (Even then, the electoral office notes that “if the document is out-of-date it will still be accepted, provided the photograph is of a good enough likeness.”)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 previously. “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.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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