Government proposals to introduce compulsory photo ID for voters were described as an attempt to “suppress minority and underrepresented communities” after secret plans were leaked this weekend.
The Queen’s speech is expected to include intentions to make showing ID such as driving licences or passports at the ballot box compulsory today, but the plans have been met with anger from campaigners.
Critics said the move would be a threat to democratic participation and would impact far more people than it would prevent voter fraud.
According to James Ball 26 ballots out of 51,400,000 cast in 2015 faced allegations of in-person voter fraud.
By contrast, around 5.6 million UK adults have no passport or driver’s licence.
A threat to our democracy
Recent limited trials of voter ID also resulted in more than 700 people being denied a vote, said campaigners, which according to Darren Hughes, the chief executive of the ERS, poses a threat to our democracy.
He said: “When millions of people lack photo ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] voters.
“The government have sat on their hands in the face of the actual threats to electoral integrity: anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donations and disinformation. Instead of taking on the real issues, they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Suppressing voters’ rights
“Make no mistake, these plans will leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless.
“Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights.
“This gamble with our democracy will strike many voters as US-style gerrymandering, with Britain’s tradition of trust at the ballot box abolished in one swoop.
“Ministers must think again.”
Troubling and disappointing
Sir Simon Woolley, the founder of Operation Black Vote, described the voter ID proposals as “troubling and disappointing, not least because the case hasn’t been proven on voter fraud”.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “What we are aware of, very much, is it dissuades many from engaging in the democratic process, particularly those from black minority ethnic communities. It is another obstacle to engagement from sectors of society already cynical about voting legislation and voting.
“The case has not been made for voter fraud, and so people are suspicious it’s for other motives.”