Tag Archives: voter ID

Will the PM eat his ID card?

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In today’s Guardian Marina Hyde has unearthed this quote from Boris Johnson in 2004:

If I am ever asked on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and am simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded I produce it.

I am reminded of Paddy Ashdown promising to eat his hat in 2015 when the polls were predicting large Lib Dem losses. And of Lib Dem Voice’s former editor, Stephen Tall, who pledged to run down Whitehall naked if we halved our number of MPs in the same election. Stephen, bless him, honoured his commitment, and did the run in full view of TV cameras on a cold Autumn day, although he was permitted a thong. Even Paddy submitted to good humoured humiliation when he ate a chocolate version of his hat on Question Time.

I somehow doubt that the Prime Minister will honour his pledge. But then the requirement for voters to present photo ID in order to be able to vote in a polling station, as announced in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, has already met with a great deal of public opposition, so its chances of reaching the statute books are, in my view, quite slim. However, we must not make any assumptions about how it will play out, and we must ensure that everything possible is done to prevent it becoming a reality.

The reasons for opposing voter ID have been covered extensively, but it is worth reminding people that it was blatantly used in some US states by Republicans to suppress Democratic votes.

Any extra complexity added to voting processes anywhere in the world potentially discourages some voters from exercising their democratic rights, and may even disenfranchise them.

In simple terms, voter impersonation (“personation” as it is correctly called) is a vanishingly small offence in the UK, as indeed it is in the US.  The Electoral Commission has published reports which show that 1 person was convicted of personation in 2017, none in 2018, 1 in 2019, and none in 2020 (although very few elections took place last year). This is not a problem seeking a solution.

On the other hand, it is a solution creating a problem.

In a research briefing from the House of Commons Library, we learn that the Electoral Commission had found that around 25% of voters do not have either a passport or driving licence – the most popular forms of photo ID used in this country. By extending that to include other forms of ID, such as bus passes, some 92.5% would be covered. But that still leaves 3.5 million voters without any permissible form of ID.

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11 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats call for independent equality assessment of Voter ID plan
  • Liberal Democrats: Government must halt use of facial recognition by police

Liberal Democrats call for independent equality assessment of Voter ID plan

The Liberal Democrats are calling for independent equality impact assessments into voter ID to protect “the legitimacy and integrity” of the UK electoral system as the Government looks to press ahead with voter ID legislation.

Citing evidence from around the world demonstrating that Voter ID makes it more difficult for people to vote, Liberal Democrat MPs are raising deep concerns that voter ID checks “will disproportionately impact ethnic minorities” at …

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Electoral fraud – the truth about personation

I doubt that one in a hundred readers of LDV have ever heard of a tendered ballot paper, let alone seen one.

Electoral law makes provision at EVERY election for the issue of tendered ballot papers, sometimes known as pink ballot papers.

If you go down to the polling station to vote and the presiding officer says to you, “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a ballot paper because you’ve already voted”, what do you do? The answer is that you can insist that you haven’t voted, and the presiding officer must then offer you a ‘tendered’ ballot paper. This is the same as the white ballot paper, but for two things.

  1. It is a different colour (usually pink)
  2. It is stored separately from the white ballot papers.

How is it counted? The answer is that it isn’t, unless the election is challenged in an electoral court. In that case, the original ballot paper is found and compared with the tendered ballot paper and the tendered paper is the one that is counted. Now of course you might quite correctly argue that this breaks the secrecy of the election, but it does give an element of protection against personation, that is the attempt to impersonate a voter and vote instead of him/her.

I have been involved in an election where tendered ballot papers were issued. This was in a big city in 2008, in a local election where the Lib Dem candidate lost by less than 120 votes. The election had many strange features, but it became clear that a party had engaged in personation by finding out who wasn’t going to vote and sending someone to vote for them. Following this narrow win, I asked the returning officer if there had been any tendered ballot papers issued and there had. He also told me it happened in many wards in the city.

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The irony of the Tory Voter ID plans

Our democracy in this country is pretty much broken.

On one hand we have a government that constantly bangs on about the will of the people, whilst simultaneously doing its damnedest to undermining it.

The irony of that is not lost on me.

A Government that actually did care about the will of the people would make sure that the people got the parliament they asked for, for a start, by introducing a proportional system of voting. This is not boring constitutional stuff – we should be doing more to frame it as a fundamental issue of trust.

In recent years, the introduction of individual electoral registration has led to a severe democratic deficit. Just last month, Electoral Commission research showed that 17% of voters were not correctly registered.

That’s not far off one in five people, who are more likely to be young or from marginalised groups – and least likely to vote Conservative.

That is, surely, a much bigger problem than some confected spectre of “voter fraud” which is being used as a justification to bring in this measure.

The Electoral Reform Society has this to say on that subject:

Thankfully electoral fraud is very rare in the UK. Where voter fraud has occurred, it has been isolated and therefore is best tackled locally.

Out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – that’s 0.000063%. Adding a major barrier to democratic engagement off the back of this would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

And our Tom Brake said that this measure was a blatant attempt at voter suppression and rig future elections:

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Compulsory Voter ID – sensible security measure or deliberate disenfranchisement?

Did you know that the Government has a manifesto commitment to bring in compulsory ID for Parliamentary elections?  They plan to require us to show some sort of ID before we are issued with our ballot paper in a polling station. 

The idea was piloted in five Boroughs in the recent council elections, and the Government is now looking for pilot sites for next May’s elections. The Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission have both published evaluations of the pilots. There is also an excellent report from the Electoral Reform Society setting the issue of voter ID in the context of other priorities for electoral reform.

I took part in a project, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, to find out how voters experienced these pilots.  We contacted Lib Dem and Labour campaigners in the five Boroughs and asked them to survey their residents and to give us their own views. We received responses from 21 campaigners and 329 residents from four of the five Boroughs (Woking, Bromley, Watford & Swindon). We also held a fringe meeting at Federal Conference, where Peter Taylor, the Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford, spoke about the Watford experience.  

The Five Pilots

The five Boroughs piloted different approaches: Woking, Bromley and Gosport tested various forms of photo ID requirement, although in Bromley and Gosport two forms of non-photo ID were also allowed; Swindon and Watford piloted a requirement to bring a poll card which was electronically scanned, with Watford also allowing other ID in the absence of a polling card.

Voters Turned Away

The Electoral Commission evaluation states that, according to the Returning Officers, 1,036 people attempted to vote without the correct ID, and that between 326 and 350 did not return later in the day, an average of 0.23% of all polling station voters.  The “did not return” rate varied between councils, with 57% of those initially turned away not returning in Woking (where the ID requirements were strictest) and about 27% not returning in Bromley and Watford. 

Campaigners in our survey gave some examples: 

“A gentleman  with a Surrey Senior Bus Pass was refused a vote because his Bus Pass had two names and apparently his name on the Electoral Register contained an additional name”. (Campaigner from Woking)

“I heard of …one person turned away despite having a digital copy of a bank statement, he was told to go home and print the statement out.” (Campaigner from Bromley) 

Voters put off due to the need for ID

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Local Liberal Democrats join leading charities to condemn Bromley voter ID pilot

In the upcoming local elections, for the first time ever, Bromley residents will have to produce verifiable ID at polling stations to cast their vote.

The Borough has volunteered to take part in a pilot scheme which, if successful, could see this scheme rolled out across mainland UK. The move follows a Conservative government report which claims such moves are necessary to prevent voter ID fraud.

On the face of it, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. Many other countries insist upon ID before you can vote. Surely people can do the same when voting here?

But here’s the thing – millions of people in …

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