THE voter ID scheme to be trialled by Swindon Borough Council in May is “draconian” and may “exclude legitimate voters from our democracy,” say the Electoral Reform Society.

Such a damning assessment comes just two months before the scheme is to be rolled out across Swindon for the local elections.

The initiative will see people being turned away from polling stations if they cannot prove who they are with a suitable form of ID.

The main reason given by the government for introducing the scheme was that it will help to tackle voter fraud. But analysis by the Electoral Commission of votes conducted in 2017 has revealed there were just 28 allegations of ‘personation’ in polling stations – where someone is accused of assuming another’s identity to cast a vote.

Just one of these allegations resulted in a prosecution. This was out of nearly 45 million votes cast in total throughout 2017.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “These latest figures show just how over-bearing the government’s voter ID plans really are.

“The number of alleged cases of electoral fraud involving impersonation is actually falling and yet the government are intent on testing this draconian measure.”

Swindon’s Labour Group have consistently opposed the scheme since it was first floated on the grounds that it could restrict voting rights.

Labour leader Jim Grant, who has called on council leader David Renard to resign if the scheme results in people being turned away from the polling station, said: “I think the Electoral Reform Society have made very valid points and they are the same points Labour have been making for some time.

“Not only is there no grounds for setting up this trial, but it is a waste of public money. Taxpayers money is in effect being used for a Conservative pet project that nobody has asked for. How is this helping pay down the deficit?”

Figures from the Electoral Commission show that 3.5 million people (7.5 per cent of the electorate) in Britain do not have access to any form of photo ID, while 11 million electors (24 per cent of the electorate) do not have access to a passport or photographic driving license.

Despite this, Cllr Renard fully backed the scheme and praised Swindon’s participation in it.

He said: “I welcome the government’s voter id pilot scheme in which Swindon is participating. It cannot be right that you have to produce more id to collect a parcel from the post office than you do to claim your ballot paper.

“I cannot think of another area of public life that is so important to us as choosing our elected representatives where we are relying on a test that has barely change since the 1830s.”

Questioning the ERS’s methodology, he added: “It is misleading to use the number of convictions as the bench mark. That just means the police have not got the evidence to prosecute.”