VOTERS in Swindon could be asked to show photographic ID before being allowed to cast their ballot in next year's local elections.

An emergency motion will go before tonight's meeting of the full council which will see councillors asked to consider a request by the government in Westminster to take part in a new voter ID pilot scheme.

The Conservative administration are expected to vote in favour, as are the two Liberal Democrat councillors.

However the Labour group are believed to be strongly opposed to the plans, labelling them as voter suppresion and accusing the majority Conservative group of party political gameplaying.

Councils in Bromley, Gosport, Watford and Woking have already agreed to participate in the pilot scheme.

Tower Hamlets Council in London will trial a new postal voting pilot at the same time.

Slough Council had been due to participate too but councillors there voted to pull out over fears that voters could be disenfranchised. It was then that Swindon was approached by the Cabinet Office as a potential replacement.

Full details of the pilot scheme are yet to emerge, but it appears that the trial will not require photographic ID in all cases. Instead it will see greater importance given to the polling card that arrives through the door ahead of election day.

The card will feature a new barcode which will be linked to a specific individual on an electronic database held by staff at polling stations.

Voters going to their polling stations will be asked to produce their polling card to have the barcode scanned. If they are unable to produce their polling card it is then that they will have to show a recognised form of photographic ID.

Currently, there is no requirement to show a polling card, or any form of identification, to vote in UK elections.

The exception to that rule is Northern Ireland, where a requirement for voter ID was introduced in 2003.

Supporters of enhanced electoral security say there is no evidence of an adverse impact on voter turnout as a result.

But those who oppose the move towards requiring ID to vote point to the lack of noticeable electoral fraud in the UK. In Swindon, for example, there have been no identified cases of voter fraud, at least in the recent past.

In light of the low levels of offending, the Electoral Reform Society has described the planned pilots as like using “a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

A spokesman for the organisation said: "Thankfully electoral fraud is very rare in the UK.

"Where voter fraud has occurred, it has been isolated, and therefore is best tackled locally.

"51.4 million votes were cast in 2015. There were just 130 allegations of voting offences. Of these, 26 were allegations of impersonation – the type of fraud that voter ID is designed to tackle.

"That’s just 0.00005 per cent of votes cast. This would add a major barrier to democratic engagement.

"At the same time, voter ID laws would make no difference to allegations of fraud with postal votes, proxy votes, breaches of secrecy, tampering with ballot papers, bribery, undue influence, or electoral expenditure. But it would make it harder to vote for millions of legitimate voters."

But the government's minister for the constitution, Chris Skidmore, claimed it was currently harder for people to take out a library book or collect a parcel than it was to vote.

Outlining the need for changes, he said: "For people to have confidence in our democratic processes we need to ensure that our elections are safeguarded against any threat or perception of electoral fraud.

"The current situation of people simply pointing out their name without having to prove who they are feels out of date when considering other safeguards to protect people’s identity."

It is understood that Swindon will not be hit financially if it votes to take part in the trial with all additional costs being covered by the Cabinet Office.

The vote will take place tonight, when the full council meets in the Civic Offices in Euclid Street.