Exclusive: Ministers just made an astonishing admission about mandatory voter ID

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 18th July 2021

“Users without ID, or users who are reliant on ID from family members, would experience a serious restriction of their…experience, freedom of expression and rights. Research from the Electoral Commission suggests that there are 3.5 million people in the UK who do not currently have access to a valid photo ID.”

If this sounds like an ERS argument against mandatory voter ID, you might be surprised. It’s the government’s own words.

Ministers have just made an astonishing own goal, after admitting that making identification mandatory for social media users could disenfranchise 3.5m people.

Those words came in an official response to an e-petition calling for social media users to be verified by showing ID when setting up accounts.

Yet in a reply to a separate petition – calling for ministers to scrap plans to force all voters to show ID – the government said:

Showing identification to prove who you are is something people of all walks of life already do everyday. It is a reasonable and proportionate approach to extend this practice to voting and to give the public confidence that their vote is theirs, and theirs alone. Everyone who is eligible to vote will continue to be able to do so.” 

This has now been directly contradicted by the government itself, in response to the social media petition. Millions of people lack photo ID in the UK – making mandatory voter ID a threat to the right to vote.

In other words, the government is pushing forward with its illiberal Elections Bill – which contains the provisions for mandatory voter ID – despite publicly admitting it could lock millions out of political participation.

Commenting, Willie Sullivan, Senior Director (Campaigns) at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This is an astonishing admission from the government, undermining its own case for mandatory voter ID.

“If the government believes that ID for social media users will restrict the freedoms and rights of  millions of people, the same stands for voter ID. It will make voting harder for everyone and lock huge numbers of people out of democracy.

“We are truly through the looking glass now, with one department attacking ID while another imposes it on the whole country make it harder to vote. The government’s culture department is right, along with Conservatives like Ruth Davison and David Davis who argue that mandatory ID is an illiberal, costly policy that will only make our democracy more unequal.” 

By the government’s own admission – and research – mandatory ID could pull up the drawbridge to millions of voters. The government must now scrap this dangerous, undemocratic policy – and listen to its own department. 

Sign the ERS’ petition to scrap the mandatory voter ID plans.

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