We Told Downing Street: No to Voter ID

September 8, 2021

On Tuesday, our director Kyle Taylor went to 10 Downing Street along with representatives from the Electoral Reform Society, My Life My Say, Hands Off Our Vote and 38 Degrees to deliver 290,000+ signed petitions telling the Government to scrap dangerous plans for voter ID.

We also delivered a letter, signed by a broad coalition of civil society organisations and academics, reminding government that more than 2 million people lack photo ID and that the plans (by Government’s own figures) could cost up to £20 million per general election.

The mobilisation efforts around voter ID have been strong across civil society and the public. All of the evidence simply points to the fact that voter id will keep people away from the polls, cost millions, and solve absolutely nothing.

A data driven, peer reviewed study of voter ID pilots by Professor of Political Science & Public Policy Toby S. James (University of East Anglia) and Senior Lecturer Alistair Clark (Newcastle University) found that voter identification measures “had little effect on the security of the electoral process” and that they actually “led to some voters not casting their ballot, either for reasons of convenience and availability of suitable forms of ID, or reasons of principle and protest.”

Voter ID, along with the limitations on postal voting that are also provisioned in the Elections Bill, are US Republican-style policies designed to limit voting and make minority rule a reality. The US recently had a minority-elected President nominate lifetime Supreme Court appointments that were confirmed by a minority-elected Senate. Voter suppression measures in Texas allowed for fringe beliefs to become state law at the behest of minority-elected state legislators. The dangers of voter suppression are palpable and we do not want to see the UK move in this dangerous direction. This is a truly critical moment for the future of UK democracy.

Supporters of voter ID often bring up Northern Ireland and EU countries with mandatory voter ID, but this is not an apt comparison. The implementation of ID in Northern Ireland had a significant negative effect on voter turnout, as many are predicting will be the case here. Additionally, EU countries already have mandatory state ID card schemes which include free provision of ID for all citizens. The UK’s scheme wants to create a registration based process (ie not automatic) for “electoral identity documents” administered independently by over 300 councils (in England alone), each with their own funding limitations. We still don’t know how long it will take to arrive, or how difficult it will be to acquire. If you need to travel to a distant council office to get it, or take time off work, or are a Council tax payer, that’s not ‘free’ ID. Many will be unable to complete the registration process in the allotted time or travel to pick up the document (assuming the councils are even able to fund these plans). 

As the Elections Bill has just passed its second reading and is moving to Committee Stage on the 15th, we are urging the Government to pause and re-think this bill. The cost figures come from the largely buried impact assessment of the bill, which estimates that the bill’s provisions could cost as much as £180 million over the next 10 years. We urge the public and the Government to consider what we are actually getting for that price.

We are not alone. We, along with the 290,000+ petition signers and a 61 org strong democracy defense coalition, will not see voters disenfranchised in this country or minority rule made a reality.

Stand with us and tell the government: No to Voter ID.

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