By Emmagayle Harper
Controversial voting reforms proposed by the UK Government are set to be announced by The Queen in her state opening speech at Westminster following the elections last week.
These reforms are set to force voters to prove their identity when voting in UK wide general elections, local elections in England.
The Conservative government has said its plan is to introduce mandatory photo ID for those taking part in these elections.
Requiring all voters to carry photo ID could interfere with people who wish to turn up to polling stations and vote without planning ahead in advance, critics say.
Statistics say that about a quarter of voters state that they do not have either a passport or driving licence and that those without photo ID are often younger voters.
Previous early trials of compulsory photo ID in 2019 led to hundreds of voters being turned away and opposition parties Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru issuing the government a letter condemning the plan as “a blatant attempt by the Conservatives to rig the result of future elections by making it harder for people to vote”.
Shadow Secretary of State for Young People and Democracy Cat Smith has said that 3.5 million voters do not have a form of photographic ID.
“The chances are we all know someone without photo ID, maybe it’s your Nan, your son, your mate from the football? Don’t have a driving licence, don’t travel abroad?”.
She continued: “This policy will put up obstacles for poorer voters. It wants in the bin.”
Even seniors within the Conservative party have stated their opposition to the voter ID plan, with former Cabinet minister David Davis telling The Independent that it was an “illiberal solution for a non-existent problem”.
The Electoral Commission, the UK’s independent election and election finance regulator, states that ‘The UK has low levels of proven electoral fraud.’ and that there remains no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud in 2019.
In 2019 the police investigated 595 cases of alleged electoral fraud.
164 of these were in the UK general election and only four led to a conviction and two individuals were given a police caution.
So, if electoral fraud is such a non-issue with strikingly low numbers prosecuted every year, then why are the UK Government pushing for voting reforms to stop it? Many members of the public have aired concerns that it may be to suppress votes from working class, disabled, young and ethnic minority voters.
One person on social media stated:
Voter ID will suppress:
Basically everyone the tories don't want voting
— Rachel Charlton-Dailey (@RachelCDailey) May 10, 2021
Human rights charity Liberty said that:
Criminal barrister Maximillian Hardy posted on social media commenting on the proposal saying:
Amid the recent controversies stemming from the UK Government, it seems that this widely debated voting reform will be yet another pressing political debate that will be more and more prevalent in the weeks to come as the Conservatives and opposition parties clash over the proposal.