The latest blow to the government’s voter ID plans came this week when an influential cross-party group of MPs call on the government to think again over plans for photographic voter ID.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights issued the warning in a new report scrutinising the government’s Elections Bill – legislation that includes plans to introduce photographic ID requirements at polling stations.
In the report, the JCHR, said the government must do more to prove that the plans do not act as a deterrent on voting and said ministers showed a lack of understanding as to how the plans would negatively impact marginalised groups.
The findings of this report should come as no surprise. The cross-party JCHR have come to the same conclusion as many academics, charities and civil society groups in sounding the alarm over the government’s damaging voter ID plans.
The government has failed to make a credible case that these measures are necessary just as they have failed to take any serious steps to reduce the negative impacts of these dangerous proposals.
The ERS gave evidence to the committee’s enquiry with Dr Jess Garland telling MPs and Peers that it was “implausible” to suggest that fraud by personation – trying to vote under a false identity – was happening undetected and highlighting the policy risks impacting millions of legitimate voters for little reward.
Make no mistake – voter ID will see legitimate voters turned away from the ballot box and, as this report warns, it’s likely to be those already marginalised in society such as the elderly, disabled people, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
The Committee also called on the government to provide more information on the proposed ‘free’ Voter Card scheme – which we’re concerned won’t be free at all, if voters have to take time off work, trek to distant council offices and wait weeks to get it.
Instead, ministers should consider introducing automatic voter registration as part of the bill to ensure those who are entitled to vote can do so.
The report comes as opposition to the bill in parliament grows with senior conservative MP David Davis criticising the government’s ‘dangerous’ plans claiming ministers lacked the evidence required to justify the plans.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, Davis said that the proposals were “yet another identity management solution looking for a problem” proposed by the government and compared it to other controversial ID requirements such as coronavirus certification.
It’s time for the government to stop and re-think this bill. And MPs from all parties must challenge this costly legislation head-on and make sure any reforms of our voting laws are there to strengthen our democracy, not weaken it.
The ERS is working hard to challenge this legislation and stand up for voter rights – scouring through the bill, working with partner organisations and politicians, and getting the message across in the media.
Can you add your support by signing our petition, and joining the movement for real electoral reform?
Sign our petition and defend your right to vote!