I strongly oppose the Government’s plans to require voters to show an approved form of photo ID to vote in parliamentary elections in Great Britain and local elections in England.
While electoral fraud is a serious crime, occurrences are thankfully exceedingly rare in the UK. Indeed, out of 44.4 million votes cast in 2017, there were 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud and only one conviction. This proposal would be an exceptionally costly method of disenfranchising ordinary people. The statistics demonstrate that this is not a widespread or serious issue within our democratic process, but voter suppression clearly would be.
I would of course support effective measures to combat electoral fraud, but evidence from around the world shows that forcing voters to bring photo ID to the polling station does little to stop determined fraudsters. It just makes it harder for people to vote.
This was demonstrated at the English local elections in 2018 and 2019 when several local authorities piloted voter ID schemes. The Electoral Commission found that in total, over a thousand voters were denied their right to vote because they did not have the correct form of ID. These citizens were therefore shut out of the democratic process.
There are 11 million citizens in the UK – 24% of the electorate – who lack a passport or driving licence. 3.5 million – 7.5% of the electorate – do not have access to any form of photo ID.
The independent Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that voter ID has a disproportionate impact on voters with protected characteristics, including older people, transgender people, and people with disabilities. I also fear that working-class voters, and many young voters, would be disproportionately affected.
Voter ID is clearly discriminatory and would prevent legitimate voters from taking part in our democratic process. I believe that a requirement to provide photo ID would simply suppress voting. Let’s not pretend that this measure is about anything other than taking the vote away from demographics that would not ordinarily vote Tory.
We should be strengthening our democracy, not stifling it by making it harder for people to vote. I can assure you I will oppose the voter ID proposals whenever they are brought before Parliament.