Proposed Electoral Integrity Bill will discriminate against those most marginalised in society

Voters will be obliged to show photo ID at polling stations from 2023 under legislation set to be included in the Queen’s Speech which is currently expected after the local elections in May according to media reports. Despite electoral fraud and corruption being rare, ministers are determined to make it more difficult for people to vote.

At the same time, it is reported that ministers plan to lift the 15 year limit on UK expats voting.

This is going the wrong way. We should be using resources to promote inclusion among those who rarely votes and on extending the franchise to 16 year olds, not making it more difficult for people to vote.

Cast your mind back to October 2019. Boris Johnson’s Queen’s Speech was dominated by measures to support withdrawal from the EU. Tighter control of immigration and tougher treatment of criminal immigrants headlined. The Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced as was the still struggling Environmental Bill. The Queen also announced:

“My Government will take steps to protect the integrity of democracy and the electoral system in the United Kingdom.”

Eric Pickles had been kicked out as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in 2015. On the way upstairs to the Lords, he published a report on tackling electoral fraud. Individual Electoral Registration had been underway since 2013. By 2019, the Electoral Reform Society estimated that nine million people were missing from the electoral roll. The Pickles report notes that there 665 alleged cases of electoral fraud in 2015 out of 51.4 million votes, one allegation in 10,000 votes. Only three in 100,000 votes were alleged to have been fraudulent. More recent data reported 266 allegations of electoral fraud in 2018, of which only a fifth were voting offences.

But, using a proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut, the government is determined that people will not be able to vote without a photo or council issued ID.

This was always a political agenda. Ministers have taken localised examples of democracy being abused and crafted a scheme for the whole country. They know that their voters are among the most inclusive in the country. Many voters for other parties are among the most excluded in the country. The Electoral Integrity Bill will tilt the vote towards those who are comfortable with our current society. It will discourage those who are barely engaged with the political process from voting.

In response to the news that the bill was to be in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech, Liberty said:

“If you’re young, if you’re a person of colour, if you’re disabled, trans or you don’t have a fixed address, you’re much less likely to have valid photo ID and could therefore be shut off from voting… The Electoral Reform Society… found during the Government’s May 2018 voter ID pilot, twice as many people were blocked from voting than there were cases of voter fraud in the preceding seven years.”

The Electoral Reform Society said:

“Make no mistake – these plans are an expensive distraction, at a cost of up to £20m per General Election… The policy poses a major risk to democratic access and equality, and it’s totally wrong priority during the pandemic.”

The disadvantaged, people who feel marginalised are the very people we need to vote. We can never be an equal society, we can never reduce social inequality, unless the whole spectrum of our society votes.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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27 Comments

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Feb '21 - 11:12am

    I wouldn’t worry. It’s safe to assume medico-scientific tyranny will be declared well before 2023.

    Do what you want as long as you are muzzled, distancing and joyless.

    What a time to be alive.

  • nigel hunter 19th Feb '21 - 2:04pm

    As easy as picking up a parcel? I you have no ID to pick up yourparcel you do not get it. Therefore if no ID you cannot vote.Gerimmandering US style

  • nigel hunter 19th Feb '21 - 2:26pm

    Interesting nowt will be said until AFTER the local Elections

  • Peter Hayes 19th Feb '21 - 2:42pm

    Wonder how many elderly Conservative voters have given up driving and foreign travel.

  • Barry Lofty 19th Feb '21 - 2:54pm

    Interesting, it seems that the Conservative party are aiming to govern in perpetuity, nothing new there then!

  • david webberley 19th Feb '21 - 3:01pm

    Personally, I would welcome some sort of National ID card – we are about the only country in Europe that gave them up too readily after the war.

    There is much said about fraud and deception in many financial and other matters – surely we should be looking to ensure that the democratic process is protected to stop fraud from becoming an issue.
    In the days when most people new each other in the general locality, it could be argued that if someone purported to be Mr Brown of 123 Any Street, that the polling station staff would know that it was Mr Smith from 1 somewhere close who was trying to ensure that Candidate X had more votes (or less) than he should have.

    These days that would probably not be the case, and with less policemen on polling station duty there is not the visible deterrent of yester year.

  • Barry Lofty 19th Feb '21 - 3:29pm

    I am sorry if I seem to be sceptical but over my lifetime the Conservatives rarely sought to change any electoral laws unless there was just a little bit of self interest in it, but perhaps my antipathy to that party maybe driving my thinking.

  • clive english 19th Feb '21 - 6:08pm

    There is no evidence that what little fraud there has ever been in local elections is the type that can be addressed by voter ID at polling stations. Its simply that poorer people are less likely to have it. That’s the point for the Tories BTW what on earth is jackie pepper on about. Is that the “there is no coronavirus conspiracy argument or what”

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Feb '21 - 6:34pm

    Clive

    We have:

    Forced muzzles
    Bans on human contact
    Bans on who you can have in your own home
    Internal movement bans
    Forced business closure
    Forced medical testing
    Hotels that blur the definition of prisons
    Destroyed educations
    We exist to protect the health service rather than have it protect us.

    And we are bankrupting ourselves, kids and grandkids for the privilige.

    All with no exit plan or end in sight.

    That’s what I’m on about.

  • John Peters 19th Feb '21 - 9:03pm

    @Little Jackie Paper

    We could cancel all those rules tomorrow but there would almost certainly be consequences.

    I wonder if you accept that one of those consequences would be an increase in Covid deaths? If you do would you have a feel for how much of an increase would be acceptable? It’s certainly a question we have to ask ourselves as a society.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Feb '21 - 11:39pm

    John Peters

    Does it, on any level, matter to you that there is no plan, intention or will to end those restrictions?

    I’m going to sit here and watch my little girl’s life drain away in a dystopian hellscape. But that’s all a-ok right.

    It’s only three weeks to flatten the curve.

  • If the government are expecting my passport photo to look like me then, at least to the average polling station staff member, the photo is so poor it could easily be challenged or used by someone looking similar to me and accepted.
    Will any challenged voters be allowed to vote with a special ballot paper, as is now (rarely) the case where there is doubt as to the voters identity?
    What about postal voter identity checks?
    Can we call this the “Voter Suppression Bill”?

  • Peter Martin 20th Feb '21 - 10:17am

    Maybe we should do what they used to do in India and mark everyone’s finger with an indelible ink to show they have voted.

    At the same time we should tighten up on postal votes. My wife and I get them without even asking, even though we are at home most of the time. If I were a ‘controlling freak’ of a husband I could easily ensure we always cast two votes for the Labour party rather than just the usual one!

  • David Garlick 20th Feb '21 - 10:58am

    In my limited view the biggest risk to voter fraud is in postal voting where dominant individuals can manipulate those they dominate to vote as instructed/sign a blank voting paper etc. Tends to be men perpetrating this, unsurprisngly perhaps. Not sure how this can be dealt with as I do support postal voting.

  • @Peter Martin – if you are sent postal votes for each election without asking then you must have signed up for permanent postal votes at some point. They are never sent unrequested.

  • Tonight’s Guardian website carries comments from Dame Louse Casey showing what a trick the Conference Committee missed when refusing to allow our colleagues, Katharine Pindar and Michael Berwick-Gooding, to bring their motion on Beveridge 2 to Conference. A football team would be put down as an own goal, but it’s not, so let’s just put it down to a lack of imagination from the Home-Counties in-crowd.

    Guardian website tonight :

    “Senior figures are calling on Johnson to use the fallout from the pandemic as a moment to order a review of support for the poor on the scale of the 1942 Beveridge report, which paved the way for the welfare state. In an interview with the Observer, Louise Casey, Johnson’s adviser on homelessness last year, said she would be willing to be a part of a review, warning Britain had been “torn apart” by the pandemic.

    “We need to move into Royal Commission territory,” she said. “A new Beveridge report. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Government can, if it wants to, do something on a different scale now. The nation has been torn apart, and there’s no point being defensive about that. We’ve got to gift each other some proper space to think. We’ve got to work out how not to leave the badly wounded behind.”

    She said she believed a quarter of the population might soon be in some form of hardship. “We can get there quite quickly,” she said. “By March, there will be 6 million people on Universal Credit. Almost 4 million are furloughed, and those still working are on less income. Unemployment has doubled and will keep rising. If 25% of your population is affected, then you can’t just tweak old policies, working out the least expensive, least challenging thing that can be done. You need big new policies.”

  • Paul Fisher 20th Feb '21 - 9:40pm

    Andy your snide snipe at so called ‘expats’ is both illiberal and undemocratic. It is Party policy to abolish the 15 year cap on UK citizens living abroad right to vote and the establishment of UK Constituencies Abroad. Look at the last GE manifesto. The 1.4 Millon British Europeans deserve Their Human Rights. Many can vote nowhere in the world. Got it?

  • Thank you David Raw for pointing out that senior figures are calling on Johnson to reform society on a large scale as happened after the 1942 Beveridge report. Katharine Pindar and I were are concerned about Keir Starmer’s speech on Thursday (https://labour.org.uk/press/full-text-of-keir-starmer-speech-on-a-new-chapter-for-britain/). He has recognised that “there’s a mood in the air which we don’t detect often in Britain. It was there in 1945, after the sacrifice of war, and it’s there again now. It’s the determination that our collective sacrifice must lead to a better future.” (He has read the recent Marmot report on the costs of inequality. Katharine wrote an article on LDV about it back in February 2020 https://www.libdemvoice.org/society-has-stopped-improving-63586.html.) He went to say, “This must now be a moment to think again about the country that we want to be. A call to arms – like the Beveridge Report was in the 1940s. A chance to diagnose the condition of Britain… and to start the process of putting it right.”

    We are not convinced that the Conservatives could actually reform society in the way it needs to be reformed. Rishi Sunak seems to want to cut Coronavirus support and he talks of the need to pay for the huge amounts of support the government has provided. This doesn’t sound like a person who wants to ensure no one in the UK is living in poverty and everyone can reach their full potential. Keir Starmer sounds more like that person and it is possible he will steal a march on us and thousands of voters who would applaud our proposals will gravitate to the Labour Party rather than to us. We hope Ed Davey will be that person. He could show leadership and drive forward our party developing a Beveridge-2 plan to renew or revitalise the UK.

  • Last year during the leadership election Ed Davey said he wanted to see a Beveridge-2 plan. He said he got Federal Policy Committee to do some work on developing this idea, which turned into Consultation Paper 143 “The world after Covid-19”. According to Sally Burnell’s report on the November 2020 meeting of FPC this has been downgraded to a themes paper rather than as a means of us producing radical policies to deal with the five modern social evils of:
    14 million British people living in poverty;
    Inadequate health and social care provision;
    Homelessness and insufficient supply of social housing;
    Inadequate education and training;
    And a dearth of secure and sufficiently paid jobs.
    Plus dealing with the climate change emergency.

  • @ Michael BG Thank you, Michael for your thank you.

    The relevance of a political party is judged by whether or not it recognises and responds to the urgent needs of society.

    For a great many years in my life I believed the Liberal Party was attempting to fulfil that criteria. In the last few years not only me but the vast majority of the population have come to doubt that…… because of the party’s own behaviour and failing leadership. The party appears (to me) to have withdrawn into a cosy comfort zone in the South East quarter of England to focus on identity politics and sending out muted virtue signals which nobody is listening to. I’m sorry to say the present party leadership mirrors all of that and fails to communicate a clear message that resonates in all corners of the UK.

    As Dame Louise Casey so clearly points out, as you and Katharine have tried to do in the Liberal Democrats, and especially as Professor Alston so clearly did, we live in a deeply divided society of haves and have nots. In no way can it be described as a liberal society.

    If this party fails to wake up and to articulate what needs to be done then it will die….. and deserve to do so… in the next couple of years. It’s already on life support in Scotland and the final rites may be said in a matter of months.

  • Thgere is a major difference between now and the mid 1940s; then the population wanted/demanded change; a change in poor housing, health, education, etc… Now, I see no such demand, at least amongst those I meet…
    The population, as a whole, seem apathetic to the things that galvanised their grandparents; goverenment cronyism, child hunger, long term poverty and poor housing are ‘one-day headlines’..This Tory government is far to the ‘right’ compared to that led by Churchill and, if Atlee’s changes were an anathema to Churchill, how likely is it that such changes would be acceptable, let alone implemented, by Johnson?

    What is lacking is the will, not the money…This party’s (and Labour’s) promises to build affordable/council homes would bankrupt the country according to Conservative ministers prior to the 2019 election..Yet the unexpected Covid pandemic has meant the government borrowing eight times it’s expected amount in this year (£400billion as opposed to the £55billion forecast) and we are told how the economy will “bounce back” by these same ministers…

    Until the electorate demand a basic standard in income, housing, health, education, etc. nothing will change…Could this party galvanise the elecorate to demand this change…Hmmmmmm?

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Feb '21 - 12:48pm

    The people who need change in Britain today are unheard, expats, because they don’t shout. Unlike you and me they are too busy struggling to live, not just to stay alive in this time of Covid 19, but to have enough to live on and to try to find any hope of better lives for the people they love.

    All Liberal Democrats want to defend them, and the best way Michael and I believe to do so is for our party to commit to, not National Recovery Bonds, but a National Recovery or Renewal Plan which will incorporate all the elements of the new Beveridge plan we have been advocating. Such a National Plan echoing the great reform plan of William Beveridge is now needed, as important national figures are now accepting, and because our party has the tools for the job through our policies and our commitment, it is our leadership which surely should lead on this.

  • Katharine is correct and it’s time the Liberal Democrat Party and its current Leader woke up and smelt the coffee about what’s really going on in UK 2021 :

    According to today’s Observer : “The number of British households plunged into destitution more than doubled last year, according to alarming new research on the devastating fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Amid growing concerns over the unequal impact the crisis has had on the poor and low-paid, it has emerged that there were 220,000 more households living in destitution by the end of last year, potentially more than half a million people.

    The troubling figures come alongside calls for a major review of the support provided to the poorest during the crisis. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is expected to extend state support for businesses and the low-paid as part of in his Budget next month.

    The increase in destitution – from 197,400 to 421,500 households last year – was revealed by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation to be broadcast tomorrow, Britain’s £400bn Covid Bill: Who Will Pay? Destitution is defined as a two-adult household living on less than £100 a week and a single-adult household on less than £70 a week after housing costs”.

    For a start, Federal Conference Committee could do a U turn, accept an Emergency Motion – because it is an emergency, and get Ed Davey to speak to it.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Feb ’21 – 12:48pm
    The people who need change in Britain today are unheard, expats, because they don’t shout…………….. it is our leadership which surely should lead on this……..

    But they are ‘shouting’. Katharine. it is just the majority of the media, and the wider population, aren’t listening.. We (and by ‘we’ I mean the vast majority of the population who aren’t desperately trying to ‘keep their heads above water’) should be angry, and demanding change, on their behalf.. The first and last line of John Donne’s ‘No Man is an Island’ are most quoted but the ‘in-between’ gives the detail.

    As for our leadership..It has been pointed out several times on here that it didn’t even bother to read the UN (Philip Alston) report on the poverty in the UK. That is almost unbelievable considering the media’s headline of how “the UK’s social safety net has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos”..Perhaps the report stating that the “tragic consequences” were due to “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010″ might have been a bit embarassing to say the least?

  • @Paul Fisher [20th Feb ’21 – 9:40pm]
    Andy your snide snipe at so called ‘expats’ is both illiberal and undemocratic. It is Party policy to abolish the 15 year cap on UK citizens living abroad right to vote and the establishment of UK Constituencies Abroad.
    Disagree, I question why this has become a priority now for the Conservatives – could it be something to do with its (Brexit leaning) sponsors increasingly residing abroad. I wonder when we will have MP’s whose primary residence is abroad?
    What is a priority now, and which Andy is referring to is getting UK residents to vote.

    @Little Jackie Paper [19th Feb ’21 – 11:39pm]
    I’m going to sit here and watch my little girl’s life drain away in a dystopian hellscape. But that’s all a-ok right.
    Be thankful she isn’t in intensive care (visitors not permitted), then her life really could be draining away. Also, be thankful she hasn’t brought Sars-Cov-2 into your house, CoViD19 might be nothing to children, but they sure can spread it!

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Feb '21 - 1:52pm

    Isn’t this typical of this government? Think of a damaging measure that you can use to support an issue that hardly exists. You can then trumpet your defence of democracy while diverting attention from much more important policies that would actually do what the measure introduced is promoted for.

  • neil James sandison 25th Feb '21 - 7:55pm

    good piece by Andy Boddington .We have been warned ,also contributions about marginalised citizens and Beveridge 2 I beginning to think we need a Liberal Rebellion in this country to say enough is enough its time to take these issues seriously after all climate change as an issue was in the doldrums and making little progress by the political establishment until Extincton Rebellion emerged and disrupted the cozy niche green politics of the time . Perhaps we need to be a little more disruptive about those are marginalised by the back to normal politics .

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