Yesterday was a dark day for democracy. Despite widespread opposition from campaigners, election experts, academics and civil society the government’s Elections Bill successfully passed through the commons.
The Bill includes clauses introducing voter ID, more widespread use of the outdated First Past the Post voting system, and gives the Government more say in how the Electoral Commission – the body charged with ensuring elections are fair and free – is run. It also changes the rules around how charities can campaign for change and on the rights of foreign-born residents of the UK to vote.
Ministers have pushed ahead with the plans despite widespread backlash on the impact the proposals will have on democratic rights.
Voter ID could deny hundreds of thousands of people their right to vote. The changes to the Electoral Commission belie a government trying to mark its own homework and interfere with the free and fair nature of a proper election. And extending first-past-the-post will ensure elected officials are less accountable to their community and electorate. And that’s before you get on to all the other problems in the Bill.
Opposition to the plans has been widespread – the cross-party Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) just last month called on the government to think again, saying that the evidence provided to support the bill was simply not good enough.
Despite this, just two Conservative MPs, PACAC Chair William Wragg and backbencher David Davis rebelled on the Voter ID provisions of the bill with Wragg choosing to abstain on the final vote.
This bill represents an all-out assault on our electoral law, a power grab by the government that will put too much power in the hands of the government of the day at the expense of ordinary voters who will find it harder to cast their vote.
Conservative support for the bill comes just weeks after 99 Conservative MPs voted against measures that would make people show a Covid pass before entering a nightclub.
Those rebels did so in the name of freedom – rejecting a policy they claimed would lead to the UK becoming a ‘show your papers’ society. The Prime Minister himself, in 2004, said “If I am ever asked to produce my ID card as evidence to say I am who I am… I will take that card and physically eat it.”
Yet those same MPs last night backed this bill that will see voters asked ‘papers please’ before they exercise their most fundamental democratic right.
We have been campaigning hard against this bill and raising the risks of voter ID since 2017, and, over the past few months working as part of the Democracy Defence Coalition we’ve helped mobilise thousands of people against the plans – bringing together campaigners, charities, academics and civil society groups in opposition to this damaging bill. The public see through the government’s plans and thousands of you have signed petitions to stop the bill. But our work doesn’t end here.
The legislation now moves to the House of Lords and we’ll be working with peers to amend the legislation and remove its most contentious clauses or vote it down.
It now falls on peers to stop this attack on our democracy and we hope that members of the House of Lords will do the right thing and stop this bill from becoming law in its current form
Sign our petition against voter ID