Voter ID: ‘Show your papers’ policy poses threat to free and fair elections

Posted on the 13th October 2019

  • ERS spokespeople/experts available for comment and interview
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release 13th October 2019
  • Call 07717211630 or email [email protected]

Government plans to introduce mandatory voter ID in the Queen’s Speech have been described as ‘dangerous, misguided and undemocratic’ by the UK’s leading democracy group.

The Electoral Reform Society warn the policy will make it harder to vote for millions of ordinary people to vote. A 2016 Electoral Commission report pointed out that 3.5 million citizens in the UK do not have access to photo ID, and 11 million citizens do not have a passport or driving licence [1].

More than 700 people were denied a vote for not having ID in pilots conducted in May’s local elections – across just 10 council areas, according to official figures [2]. The ERS warn that we could see voters excluded on an industrial scale if mandatory photo ID were rolled out nationally.

The ERS have highlighted Electoral Commission figures showing there were just eight allegations of personation fraud – the type voter ID is meant to prevent – in the whole of the UK last year [3], out of millions of votes cast.

Implementing mandatory voter ID would cost up to £20m per General Election, according to the government’s own figures [4].

The ERS lead a major coalition of charities and campaigners including Age UK, the Runnymede Trust, Stonewall and Liberty calling for ministers to reject mandatory voter ID [5].

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“When millions of people lack photo ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME voters.

“The government have sat on their hands in the face of the actual threats to electoral integrity: anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donations and disinformation. Instead of taking on the real issues, they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“Make no mistake – these plans will leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless. Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights.

“The government have been left with only a dog whistle to justify this ‘show-your’-papers policy, with no evidence of widespread impersonation.

“Our constitutional rules should be fair for all sides – not a political football for whichever side happens to be in control. This gamble with our democracy will strike many voters as US-style gerrymandering, with Britain’s tradition of trust at the ballot box abolished in one swoop. Ministers must think again.

ENDS

Read the ERS’ briefing on the 2019 voter ID trials in the local elections https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/the-2019-voter-id-pilots/

The ERS’ 2018 report on voter ID ‘A Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut’ began the opposition to the government’s ‘show your papers’ policy https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2018-Voter-ID-Trials.pdf

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf_file/Proof-of-identity-scheme-updated-March-2016.pdf

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/official-figures-show-740-people-denied-the-vote-in-mandatory-id-trials/

[3] Figures released by the Electoral Commission in March 2019 showed that, of the 266 cases of electoral fraud investigated by police in 2018 just one in five (57) related to complaints made about the voting process. Of these, personation fraud at the polling station accounted for just eight of the allegations made in 2018. https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/electoral-fraud/data-and-analysis

[4] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/voter-id-rollout-to-cost-up-to-20m-each-general-election/

[5] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/unprecedented-coalition-of-charities-and-civil-society-demand-rethink-on-dangerous-voter-id-trials/  See here: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/compulsory-voter-id-uk-government-urged-halt-plans-vulnerable-disadvantaged-charities-warn

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