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:

The move by the Government to make voter ID compulsory is a thinly-veiled attempt to rig the results of future elections. We know from the pilot back in 2018 that voter fraud was inconsequential, whilst what the pilot did do was turn away a disproportionate number of vulnerable voters.

Boris Johnson is clearly taking a leaf out of Trump’s playbook by using false claims about voter fraud to suppress turnout.

The trial was deemed a waste of time and the public’s money, and this roll-out will be no different. The Conservative Government have already showed disdain for our democracy and this move is simply further confirmation of that.

Rather than electioneering by making it harder to vote, the Conservative Government should be focusing on ways to encourage democratic participation, such as through extending voting rights to 16 year olds.

Again, the Tories are looking to Trump and the US Republicans to give themselves an advantage. They are ignoring much bigger problems with our democracy. Don’t let them get away with it.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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14 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Oct '19 - 3:31pm

    Whilst I tend to agree that the motives behind this sort of measure are suspect and that voter fraud by personation probably isn’t a significant problem (and much less likely to be than postal voting), I wish everyone would stop trotting out this so-called evidence of the one conviction and the 28 complaints as some sort of proof that there’s no problem.
    The whole point – or at least, the argument – is that in the absence of any requirement for ID, personation is extremely difficult even to notice, let alone prove. So the lack of prosecutions and convictions doesn’t prove a d. thing.

  • David Becket 16th Oct '19 - 5:16pm

    Every voter has a card from the Electoral Registration Officer. This should be handed in at the polling station. Simples

  • Mark Seaman 16th Oct '19 - 5:45pm

    I agree with Malcolm. The current voting system is all too vulnerable to fraud, and with the high number of repeated non-voters, there is a large pool of votes to be misused. That no large scale fraud has yet been confirmed is no reason for complacency.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 16th Oct '19 - 5:58pm

    If anyone wants to introduce compulsory photo id then they must be willing to issue it free of charge. There also needs to be a stop being put on insisting on either a passport or a driving licence as the only acceptable forms of id.

  • Peter Hayes 16th Oct '19 - 9:53pm

    When I was a regular deliverer we enveloped those for shared letter boxes. But I bet the electoral register did not know about shared boxes. OTOH I wonder if the polling station staff might have recognised multiple voters with different names.

  • Peter Hayes 16th Oct '19 - 9:59pm

    How do you prove that someone wanting a free photo ID is who they claim to be. My mother gave up her driving licence and passport but given all bills were in my fathers name how should she prove who she was other than an 80 year old birth certificate if she could find it.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Oct '19 - 9:23am

    It’s really strange that most democracies have voter ID requirements, but somehow that’s anathema in the UK. Most emerging democracies have them too and also have the mobile ballot box system, where the ballot box is taken to the voter rather than have postal votes.
    I have witnessed voter fraud including personation and postal vote fraud and if you think it doesn’t happen then you are plain naive.

  • Most adults have photo ids such as driving licences and/or passports. Those that don’t can easily get an Age verification identity card. Those are largely used by people needing to prove their age when purchasing alcohol, but they are open to anyone to get.

  • Despite the headlines, most people in this country are trustworthy and law abiding. That is why we don’t need ID verification for voting. We should be aiming for turnouts of over 90% at this pivotal time and to extend the franchise.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Oct '19 - 2:40pm

    @Peter Hirst. It depends where you live. Electoral fraud us much more prevalent when wards are big and anonymous. Believe me it’s much more widespread than you think.

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