From the get go, the government’s plans to force voters to show ID when voting was a solution looking for a problem, and risked shutting out tens of thousands of voters.
Now we have learnt that this draconian policy – which would force people to jump through unnecessary hoops before voting – would cost up to £20m per General Election to roll out nationally.
If £20m per election hasn’t made your eyes water, there is another figure which will. In 2017 there were just 28 claims of personation – the type of fraud that Voter ID is meant to fix – meaning the cost of voter ID could be as much as £700,000 per allegation.
Of these 28 allegations – out of 45 million votes cast last year – just one resulted in a conviction.
The government has previously hailed the success of its voter ID pilots, but now appears sheepish over the possible costs.
The estimates aren’t ones we have drawn up: they come from a Cabinet Office paper released with little fanfare just before the summer recess.
It reveals that requiring all voters to produce ID at a General Election could cost between £4.3m and £20.4m per General Election, excluding IT equipment costs. It doesn’t matter what type of ID requirements you look at – the plans will cost us dearly.
A number of options were trialled in this year’s local elections, in five pilot areas. On the day the Government published its evaluation of the trial, Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith MP, said: “The success of the voter ID pilots proves that this is a reasonable and proportionate measure…” – some measure of success that denies 350 people a vote…
Yet a report by the Electoral Reform Society, to be published next month, will strongly refute this analysis – highlighting the fact that identification requirements raise additional barriers to participation.
FullFact, the UK’s leading fact-checking organisation, found that: “In a single day across five councils, twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID, as have been accused of personation in eight years in the whole of the UK.”
If this policy was rolled out nationally at a General Election, and a corresponding proportion of would-be voters were turned away as in the trials, tens of thousands of people would be denied their voice.
It would be more logical to spend this money tackling the pressing issues which are facing our democracy – namely ‘dark money’ funding politics, the lack of regulations around online campaigning, or the need to boost engagement: improving the accessibility of our polling stations, and ensuring everyone is on the electoral register.
The government has its priorities all wrong. Forking out millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money on this sledgehammer of a policy is not just unwise, but irresponsible too.
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