Voter ID: 18 leading civil society groups unite to call for dangerous plans to be dropped

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 14th May 2021

Leading UK civil society groups have united to challenge plans to block those without ID from voting, in a landmark joint statement co-ordinated by the ERS.

Groups including Stonewall, Liberty, Operation Black Vote, NUS, Silver Voices and more say the government’s proposals for mandatory voter ID are a ‘dangerous distraction’ that will ‘bring up the drawbridge to millions of ordinary voters’.

The plans, which will cost up to £20m per general election to implement, could see 3.5m people who lack ID locked out of the ballot box while making it harder for everyone to vote. According to the government’s latest figures, one in ten people do not have an in-date, recognisable photo ID.

Government proposals widely condemned

The proposals have been widely condemned by figures ranging from leading Conservatives, David Davis MP and former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, as well as almost all opposition parties.

Figures across the political spectrum and civil society are rightly standing up to these costly and undemocratic plans. When millions of people lack photo ID, these proposals would make it harder to vote.

They risk disenfranchising a huge swathe of the public – which is why groups representing a wide range of society are sounding the alarm.

Instead of spending millions of pounds each election to lock down our polling stations, we should be closing the democratic divide and boosting political engagement. This coalition has one clear message to ministers: rethink this warped priority and scrap this dangerous ID policy.

Read the full statement:

Mandatory voter ID is a dangerous distraction

We are writing to express our deep concern about government plans to force voters to show ID at the polling station – or be denied a vote.

According to official figures, 3.5 million citizens do not have access to photo ID and 11 million do not have a passport or driving licence.

As the government has often made clear, voting is safe and secure in the UK – making mandatory voter ID a solution in search of a problem.

Instead, these proposals will turn polling workers into de facto bouncers – a role they do not want to have, and which raises its own risks of discretion and discrimination.

Our democracy is already deeply unequal, with millions missing from the electoral roll, and with major gaps in turnout between groups. We need to be revitalising our democracy – not taking a sledgehammer to political engagement.

Rather than inventing bogeymen and scare stories, ministers should focus on the real priorities facing our democracy.

At a cost of up to £20m per election, this is a worrying case of warped priorities. We urge ministers to engage with civil society groups on how to improve our political process, not undermine it.

Mandatory voter ID will bring up the drawbridge to millions of ordinary voters. There is still time to think again.


Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society
Dennis Reed Director Silver Voices
Nancy Kelley, CEO, Stonewall
Lord Simon Woolley, Founder and Director, Operation Black Vote
Kyle Taylor, Founder and Director, Fair Vote UK
Ibtisam Ahmed, Policy and Research Manager, LGBT Foundation
Professor Matt Henn, Chair of Social Research, Nottingham Trent University
Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Liberty
Cara English, Head of Public Engagement, Gendered Intelligence
Patricia Stapleton, Policy Manager, Traveller Movement 
Isobel Ingham-Barrow, Head of Policy, MEND
Tim Hughes, Director, Involve
Nick Lowles, CEO, HOPE not hate
Larissa Kennedy, President, National Union of Students (NUS)
Mete Coban MBE, Chief Executive, My Life My Say
Jo Hobbs, CEO, British Youth Council
Dorian Leatham, CEO, Migrants’ Rights Network
Klina Jordan, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Make Votes Matter

Sign our petition against these dangerous mandatory ID plans today.

Sign our petition to protect your right to vote

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