The Elections Bill would require everyone to present identification at a polling station in order to vote. I agree with the Electoral Reform Society that this proposal is an “expensive distraction” that will disenfranchise voters, particularly those who are marginalised.
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.
The Government’s own figures suggest that the scheme will cost an additional £20,000,000 per general election. This money is being spent to tackle a problem that does not really exist and, in doing so, it will create an actual problem.
In 2017, only one person was convicted of voter impersonation, a ratio of 1 in 32.2 million. In contrast, 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 around 11 million UK citizens – 24% of the electorate – who lack a passport or driving licence, and 3.5 million – 7.5% of the electorate – do not have access to any form of photo ID. On a national scale, voter ID would disenfranchise countless people and deal a significant blow to our democratic process.
The Windrush scandal shows it could be more difficult for some communities to provide official documentation. Indeed, the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that voter ID has a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities, as well as other 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 harm democratic rights and suppress voting.
We should be strengthening our democracy, not stifling it by making it harder for people to vote. I can therefore assure you that I will oppose any voter ID proposals that are brought before Parliament, including the Elections Bill.