Vote being cast in ballot box
Vote being cast in ballot box

Many constituents have written to me recently to share their concerns at the Government’s recent announcement of plans to require voters to show an approved form of photo ID to vote in parliamentary elections in Great Britain and local elections in England.

I strongly oppose the Government’s plans, I believe they are discriminatory and I have raised several vital questions to the minister responsible (I’ve shared these below, and have now added in the responses).

Firstly, let’s be clear about the issue. While electoral fraud is a serious crime, occurrences are very rare in the UK. Out of 44.4 million votes cast in 2017, there were 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud (that’s 0.000063% of the votes reported as suspected to be fraudulent) and just one conviction.

I would of course support effective measures to combat electoral fraud, but evidence from around the world shows that forcing voters to bring photo ID to the polling station does little to stop determined fraudsters. In fact, it just makes it harder for people to vote.

This was demonstrated at the English local elections in 2018 and 2019 when several local authorities piloted voter ID schemes. The Electoral Commission found that in total, over a thousand voters were denied their right to vote because they did not have the correct form of ID. In fact, in the 2019 pilots an average of 0.4% of voters were denied their vote for not having the correct ID and did not return to vote. These citizens were therefore shut out of the democratic process.

There are 11 million citizens in the UK who lack a passport or driving licence – that’s 24% of the electorate! And 3.5 million do not have access to any form of photo ID.

The Windrush scandal has shown us it could be more difficult for some communities to provide official documentation. Indeed, the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that voter ID has a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities, as well as other voters with protected characteristics, including older people, transgender people, and people with disabilities. I also fear that working class voters, and many young voters, would be disproportionately affected.

I can assure my constituents that I will oppose the voter ID proposals whenever they are brought before Parliament.

I have raised several questions to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, they are:

1. To ask the Minister how many individuals are at risk of becoming disenfranchised as a result of voter ID requirements.

Voter ID is part of a body of work this Government is delivering to strengthen the integrity of our electoral system and give the public confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century.
Both the pilots and the Northern Irish experience demonstrate that the requirement to provide ID before voting does not have an adverse effect on turnout or participation.
Any voter who does not have an approved form of ID will be able to apply, free of charge, for a local electoral ID from their local authority to ensure that everyone eligible to vote has the opportunity to.
[Answered by: Chloe Smith]

2. To ask the Minister whether an impact assessment was undertaken on the potential effect of voter ID requirements on minority and ethnic communities.

This Government takes its Public Sector Equality Duty extremely seriously. In addition to the pilots, we have consulted, and will continue to consult with a broad range of charities and civil society organisations, to make sure that voter ID will work for everybody.
Based on the evaluations of the independent Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Office there is no indication that the ID requirement negatively affected the intention to vote for any consistent specific demographic group across the pilot authorities.
Showing ID is something people of all backgrounds already do every day, for example to take out a library book, claim benefits or pick up a parcel from the post office. Proving who you are before you make a decision of huge importance at the ballot box should be no different. As was the case during the pilots, any voter who does not have an approved form of ID will be able to apply, free of charge, for a local electoral ID from their local authority.
[Answered by: Chloe Smith]

3. To ask the Minister how many people have been found guilty of voter impersonation in the last 10 years.

Data on any convictions for offences related to personation is not collected or held by the Cabinet Office. The Electoral Commission report on electoral fraud and hold more detailed information which can be found at this link.
[Answered by: Chloe Smith]

You can see my questions and answers online here. The Governments’ responses are poor, I’m sure you will agree. We will continue to push on this issue.

Introducing voter ID is a blatant attempt by this government to suppress votes from minority groups, it is clearly discriminatory. The government should not be disenfranchising citizens, we should be encouraging political engagement instead.

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