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Britain unveils plans on mandatory ID checks for voters

Xinhua, December 28, 2016 Adjust font size:

The biggest ever shake-up in the way that British people vote at elections was announced on Tuesday.

It will pave the way for more than 40 million voters who will have to show ID before they can vote in local, national and European elections.

Currently British people arrive at polling stations with no need to show any documentation, using a simple pencil to make their choice on a simple paper ballot form.

It is a system that has remained unchanged since the masses won the right to vote in the 1800s.

The British government says its plans to demand proof of identity before voting are aimed at combating electoral fraud.

The scheme is to be piloted in a number of areas in local elections due to take place in 2018, ahead of being rolled out nationally.

Britain's second biggest city, Birmingham, as well as Bradford in Yorkshire, will trial the pilot scheme at local elections in 2018.

The elections campaign organization -- the Electoral Reform Society -- described the plan to move to ID voting was a "blunt instrument" that could deter people from voting.

"While we should take all instances of voter fraud very seriously where they occur, mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut," said Electoral Reform Society CEO Katie Ghose.

The government should think very carefully before introducing barriers to voting, Ghose said.

Chris Skidmore, government minister for the constitution defended the plans, saying that electoral fraud is unacceptable on any level.

"That is why the new measures we are announcing today will protect anyone who is at risk of being bullied, undermined or tricked out of their vote, and their democratic right," Skidmore said. Endit