The government has been slammed over its plans to introduce laws that will require voters to take an extra step at election time to make their voices heard.
This is part of the government’s commitment to ‘renewing democracy’ and ‘ensuring the integrity of elections’ laid out in the queen’s speech on 11 May.
The plans, which will require voters to have a form of ID, have been criticised for making it more difficult for people to use their right to vote. Labour MP Nadia Whittome nailed why the Tories want to introduce the measures:
Requiring photo ID to vote when 1 in 4 don't have it will stop people from voting.
But that's the point.
Because this isn’t about stopping voter fraud – it’s about disenfranchising the young, the poor, and people of colour. People less likely to vote Tory.
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— Nadia Whittome MP (@NadiaWhittomeMP) May 10, 2021
The new voter ID rules have the sole purpose of excluding communities more likely to vote Labour, specifically ethnic minorities and poorer voters. It’s a direct attack on democracy in the vein of US voter suppression.
There needs to be a huge public campaign to stop this
— Aydin Dikerdem (@AydinDikerdem) May 10, 2021
Who it will hurt
The government has said that people will not be expected to pay for ID, and a free option would be available. However, MPs from opposition parties said putting any extra barriers in the way of voting could decrease turnout, urging against the move.
A trial scheme for voter ID was run during local elections in 2019 – 1,968 people were turned away for not having ID on them. More than a third – 740 – didn’t come back.
Looking to voter ID laws in the US, evidence shows that introducing such legislation in Wisconsin saw the lowest turnout to vote in 20 years in Milwaukee. Nearly two-thirds of Black people in Wisconsin live in Milwaukee.
This is just one example. With minority voters less likely to have appropriate ID in the first place, the requirement will have a discriminatory and disproportionate impact on the electorate.
Percentage of people holding full drivers’ licence (by ethnicity):
Asian – 61%
Black – 53%
Mixed – 60%
Other – 60%
White – 76%
Bringing in compulsory photo ID for elections will disproportionately disenfranchise Black, Asian and minority ethnic voters #VoterSuppression
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) May 10, 2021
US civil rights groups have already explained how voter ID requirements could hurt democracy in the UK. Director of voting and elections at Common Cause Sylvia Albert said:
They try to say that they want to protect the integrity of the election, but the reality that our elections have strong integrity. By doing this you’re actually undermining their integrity.
Instituting aspects of voter suppression, including voter ID, is allowing the politicians to choose their voters, and that is not the strength of a democracy.
Furthermore, these obstacles are being put in place without any evidence that they’re actually necessary.
According to the Electoral Commission, just 595 cases of alleged voter fraud were investigated during 2019. Of these, only four led to a conviction and two to police cautions. The commission has stated itself:
The UK has low levels of proven electoral fraud.
There remains no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud in 2019.
It has previously been estimated that it could cost up to £20m to introduce the need for voter ID per election.
There’s literally no voter fraud in the UK.
In 2017, 44.6m votes cast = just 28 allegations of voter fraud (0.000063%) + 1 conviction.
9.5m people don’t have a passport + 9m don’t have a a driving licence. That’s 24% of voters.
— Griff Ferris (@g__ferris) May 10, 2021
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) May 11, 2021
Johnson embarks on another waste of millions of pounds of taxpayer's money introducing mandatory voter ID even as Tory MP's agree UK doesn't have significant voter fraud. This is about disproportionately stopping working class+ethnic minority voters! 🧐https://t.co/rGT3tgC5sL
— mike roberts-millar 🇪🇺 (@wisheart12) May 11, 2021
A dangerous waste of time
With even Tory MPs calling the proposals pointless, this move will only make it more difficult for people to use their right to vote.
It could particularly affect voters who are less likely to support the government – this kind of insidious and unnecessary voter suppression cannot be allowed.
Featured image via YouTube/The Telegraph
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